News Release 

Older ethnic minority adults have fewer close friends

University College London

Older adults from ethnic minority groups report having fewer close friends and fewer friends who live locally than older white people, according a new UCL study.

The research, published in Ageing & Society, found that Black and Asian adults over the age of 65 years are almost twice as likely to report having no close friends (9% and 7% respectively) compared to White and mixed or 'other' ethnicity adults of the same age (both 4%).

"Despite the high rates of loneliness found in older ethnic minority adults, it is often assumed that they are protected from social isolation and loneliness because they are perceived as being likely to live in multigenerational households with traditional family practices. These stereotypes are damaging because they fail to acknowledge the diverse experiences and needs of different minority adults," said lead author Brenda Hayanga, PhD candidate (UCL Institute of Education).

Of all the black people surveyed, half (50%) reported that none of their friends were family members compared to a third of respondents with mixed or 'other' ethnicity (33%) and Asian respondents (32%) and just a quarter of White respondents (26%).

A higher proportion of Black (13%) and Asian (11%) people reported that none of their friends lived locally compared to White people (6%) and those of mixed or 'other' ethnicity (8%). After controlling for age, gender, marital status, household size, current financial situation, rurality, long-standing illness, and life satisfaction, older ethnic minority adults are more likely to report having only two close friends or fewer compared to older white adults. They also remain more likely to report that half or less than half of their friends live locally compared to older white adults.

"Having close friends and peers plays a role in reducing social isolation and loneliness. Therefore, our findings suggest that older ethnic minority adults may be more vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness than older white people," said Dr Dylan Kneale (UCL Institute of Education).

The study draws on data from Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study, and utilises data from 2014 and 2015, when there was a notable boost in representation of ethnic minority groups.

The researchers analysed a sample of 7,499 participants aged 65 years and above, 329 (4.3%) of whom identified as belonging to a minoritised ethnic group. Some supplementary analyses exploring trends for older people aged 50 and over are also included.

The number of ethnic minority adults aged 65 and over in England and Wales is estimated to increase from 0.4 million in 2011 to 2.7 million by 2051, and the findings have important implications for policymakers.

The UK Government's vision, as stated in the new loneliness strategy, is for the country to be a place where families, friends and communities can support each other and build strong social relationships especially at vulnerable points where individuals are at an increased risk of loneliness. However, much of the evidence included in this and other strategies is based predominantly on the experiences of older white adults.

Professor Ann Phoenix (UCL Institute of Education) said: "From a policy and practice perspective, the findings of this study suggest that older ethnic minority adults have different needs to older white people."

"Interventions for older people need to move away from a 'one size fits all' approach, towards interventions that are targeted, evidence-based and are reflective of the diverse experiences of older people."

###

The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Notes to Editors

For more information or to speak to the researchers involved, please contact:

Natasha Downes, UCL Media Relations. T: +44 (0) 20 3108 3844 / +44 (0) 7990 675 947, E: n.downes@ucl.ac.uk

Hayanga, B., Kneale, D., Phoenix, A., 'Understanding the friendship networks of older Black and Minority Ethnic people living in the United Kingdom' will be published in Ageing & Society on Friday 17 January 2020, 00.01 UK time / Thursday 16 January 2020, 19.01 Eastern time and is under a strict embargo until this time.

About UCL - London's Global University

UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently.

Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact.

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research - championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors.

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge.

We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk| Follow @uclnews on Twitter | Watch our YouTube channel | Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud | Find out what's on at UCL Minds | #MadeAtUCL

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.