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New survey of public health shows strong link between poor health and loneliness

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Adults in England who reported bad or very bad health are more than three times as likely to report feeling lonely than those with good or very good health. 

Published by NHS England, the Health Survey for England, 2021 part 2 reports on the nation’s health and surveyed 5,880 adults about a variety of topics including their health, physical activity and gambling. 

Three in five adults (62%) reporting bad or very bad health said they felt lonely2 at least some of the time compared to one in five (18%) with good or very good health. 

The report also found that more than three quarters of adults (77%) reported good or very good general health. 

Seven in ten men (70%) and six in ten women (59%) met the 2011 aerobic guidelines for weekly physical activity3

One in ten adults (10%) reported having participated in online gambling (excluding the National Lottery and other lotteries) during the last 12 months4

For most of 2021, interviews were carried out by telephone, rather than in person because of COVID-19 pandemic precautions. As a result of these changes in data collection, findings from 2021 are not directly comparable with those from previous years. 


Loneliness: 
 

In 2021, 18% of those who reported good or very good health reported that they felt lonely at least some of the time. 

This proportion increased to 35% of those with fair health and to 62% of those with bad or very bad health. 

More than one in five people in England (22%) reported feeling lonely at least some of the time.  

27% of adults reported that they never felt lonely whereas 6% reported that they often or always felt lonely (chronic loneliness).  


Adult health: 
  

77% of adults reported good or very good general health. 6% reported bad or very bad health. 

40% of adults had at least one longstanding illness or condition5. This included a higher proportion of women (43%) than men (37%). 


Gambling: 
  

50% of adults reported having participated in some form of gambling activity (including the National Lottery and other lotteries) in the last 12 months. Among those who had gambled, their Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)6 scores identified 5.8% as engaging in at-risk or problem gambling 

10% of adults reported having participated in online gambling (excluding the National Lottery and other lotteries) during the last 12 months. For these adults, their PGSI scores identified 18.2% as engaging in at-risk or problem gambling.  

People who had gambled and spent money on four or more different gambling activities in the last 12 months were more likely to engage in at-risk or problem gambling (27.8%) than those who gambled on two or three different activities (4.6%) or only one activity (1.6%).  


Physical activity: 
 

A higher proportion of men (70%) than women (59%) aged 16 and over met the 2011 aerobic guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity or equivalent per week. 

Levels of aerobic activity varied by areas, with those living in more deprived areas7 being less likely to have met the guidelines. The proportion of adults meeting the 2011 aerobic guidelines was lowest (53%) in the most deprived area quintile and highest in the least deprived area quintile (68%) and in the second least deprived quintile (70%). 

The Health Survey for England is commissioned by NHS England and carried out by the National Centre for Social Research in conjunction with UCL, which co-authors the report.  

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