This indicator shows the percentage of adults who felt lonely in the last week ‘some’/’most’/’all or almost all’ of the time.

Source of Data:

The data for this indicator is gathered from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS). The SHS is a survey of households across Scotland and provides reliable statistics over a wide range of topics.

This indicator is an indirect measure of loneliness through the survey question 'How much of the time during the last week have you felt lonely?’

The indicator's value is calculated as follows: Number of people who respond 'some of the time' + ‘most of the time’ + ‘all of almost all of the time’ / Total adult population (based on SHS). The unit of measurement is the percentage of all random adults surveyed who respond, 'some of the time’, ‘most of the time’ and ‘all or almost all of the time’ to this question.

The loneliness statistics in the 2022 SHS Report are at national level, with breakdowns available for different factors (for example: age, gender, qualification level of respondents, and Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation). 

Since 1999 the SHS has collected information on the characteristics, attitudes and behaviours of Scotland’s people, using face-to-face interviewing in people’s homes. Due to COVID restrictions, the 2020 and 2021 surveys were carried out over the telephone, rather than face-to-face, and published as experimental statistics.The change in mode introduced a response bias and a certain degree of measurement error which makes the 2020 and 2021 data difficult to compare with the 2022 survey and surveys prior to 2020, as one can’t necessarily discern where differences are a result of a different data collection method versus real changes in attitudes. The results of the 2022 survey have been published as Accredited Official Statistics for the first time since 2019. 

The loneliness question was first asked in the SHS in 2018 and was updated biennially (even years). Given the changes due to COVID, the results of the SHS 2022 survey are not directly comparable to SHS results for the 2020 telephone survey. Results of the loneliness statistics in the SHS 2022 survey have therefore been compared to the 2018 SHS survey.

Reports are available from the publications section of the Scottish Government website: 

SHS data can be accessed via the online Data Explorer:


Loneliness is a subjective concept, but the national strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness defines it as: a subjective feeling experienced when there is a difference between the social relationships we would like to have and those we have.

Criteria for Change:

Evaluation of change is based on the actual results from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) which are presented in the SHS Annual Report where statistically significant changes are detected and reported. 

The calculation of the statistically significant criteria for change use the SHS estimates and their base sizes to calculate an accurate test statistic (95% confidence interval) to compare against the absolute difference between the two estimates. 

If there is no statistically significant difference then any change is likely due to variation in the data rather than actual change, so this is maintaining performance. Any statistically significant difference in either direction means that there is likely a real change that cannot be explained by variation in the data and we can confidently assign improving/worsening in these cases. This is with 95% confidence that it's a real change.

More information on confidence intervals and statistical testing can be found alongside the data tables:

The approach to the 2020 and 2021 Scottish Household Survey (SHS) was revised due to COVID meaning that there was lower sample sizes, a change in the profile of respondents, and also potential mode effects. The results of the SHS 2022 survey are therefore not directly comparable to SHS results for 2020 and 2021. Given the loneliness indicator is asked every two years (even years), assessment of change in the performance of the loneliness indicator is based on 2022 and 2018.

A guide for the general methodology of indicators can be found here:

Future issues or reviews:

In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the survey methodology changed from in-home face-to-face interviewing to remote telephone or video link interviewing. The annual 2020 and 2021 SHS report relied solely on telephone responses as most surveys were conducted in this way.

The change in survey methodology resulted in changes to the profile of responding sample (non-response bias) and changes to how questions are asked and answered (measurement error). In the 2020 and 2021 SHS sample, respondents were more likely to be older, living in less deprived areas, and in owner-occupation.

Weighting was used to mitigate these effects and thereby deal with the potential risks of having a responding sample that is not entirely representative of the population. Despite efforts to minimise measurement error, the mode of interview is likely to have had some effect on some estimates.

Due to the above, 2020 and 2021 results are difficult to compare with 2022 and previous years prior to 2020. It is not possible to discern whether any changes between 2022 and 2020/2021 are due to real changes in people’s views and experiences or due to sampling and measurement errors. Given the loneliness indicator is asked every two years (even years), assessment of change in the performance of the loneliness indicator is based on 2022 and 2018.

For more information on the SHS 2020 and 2021 methodology and its implications, please click here and here


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