Measuring loneliness and its corresponding effects among ageing populations

Supervisors: Dr Luke Burns and Dr Myles Gould and colleagues at Independent Age.

This Masters by Research (MbR) project will explore the growing problem of loneliness among older populations and its consequential effects in the UK. In an ageing society with more people living longer many older people risk loneliness and social isolation due to becoming detached from family, friends and wider society. This is not simply an emotional feeling given its documented links to mental and physical health and, as a result, pressures on national health and social care services.

This MbR project will explore loneliness and devise a composite index through which this can be located, measured and analysed. The index will combine census, lifestyle and other variables to quantify loneliness at the small area level. Such predictor variables will likely be determined through literature, interviews and liaison with Age UK and its partners. The work will build upon more exploratory-level analyses undertaken by the supervisory team (see below resources*) to formulate a robust and transparent measure of loneliness nationwide.

The outcome is likely to be a freely available dataset and replicable solution to assist the public service with the targeting of areas deemed most at risk from loneliness and resultant mental and physical health conditions at a time when such issues are high on the political agenda. The supervisory team anticipate widespread impact and uptake from local authorities, the network of local Age UKs, and the wider community. Independent Age is a confirmed partner on the project and will provide ongoing support to the student.

This project would suit somebody with a human geography background and strong interests/expertise in the following areas: Quantitative research, spatial/statistical analysis, GIS, demography and data manipulation. As part of the required training for this research, the successful candidate is likely to spend several days at the European Commission in Ispra, Italy on a composite indices course (subject to availability).

*See the following resources: 


To discuss this opportunity further, please contact Dr Luke Burns (lead supervisor), e:

Entry requirements

Applicants should have, or be in their final year and expecting to receive, a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) in a relevant subject. Applicants will need to have their own funding in place for fees and living costs. Study can begin on the first of any month.

How to apply

Please see “Step 2” on our How to apply page.

The successful applicant will be eligible for a £1000 Masters by Research Bursary, funded by the Centre of Spatial Analysis and Policy. Applications received before the 30th June 2019 will be considered for the bursary if requested.

For queries about the project, please contact Dr Luke Burns, e: or for application enquiries, please contact Jacqui Manton, e: