National Loneliness Measures

General information


The following 4 questions, identified by the ONS through a process of scoping and consultation, make up our national measures of loneliness. They are comprised of three indirect questions and one direct question to cover a comprehensive picture of loneliness.

The first three questions are based on the UCLA 3-item loneliness scale, which asks people indirectly about emotions associated with loneliness (they don’t mention the word ‘lonely’). The fourth question asks people directly about their feelings of loneliness.

We recommend that you ask all four questions, but if you can only ask one it should be the fourth, direct question. You must not split the first three questions, which need to be asked and analysed as a set.

You can find more information and guidance on measuring loneliness here: Brief Guide to Measuring Loneliness



Note that the first three questions have a different response scale from the last question

1. How often do you feel you have no one to talk to?
2. How often do you feel left out?
3. How often do you feel alone?

Response categories:
1. Hardly ever or never
2. Some of the time
3. Often

4. How often do you feel lonely?

Response scale:
1. Often/always
2. Some of the time
3. Occasionally
4. Hardly ever
5. Never


The ONS report on choosing and testing these questions is here

You can find information about the development of the 3-item version of the UCLA scale in: VERSION 3 Russell, D. (1996). UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3): Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 66, 20-40.

Validation details

The ONS report on choosing and testing these questions is here

Additional testing of the UCLA 3-item scale is here: Older men and women (long-version); Chinese adolescents (Short-form). Xu, Shurong & Qiu, Dan & Hahne, Jessica & Zhao, Mei & Hu, Mi. (2018). Psychometric properties of the short-form UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS-8) among Chinese adolescents. Medicine. 97. e12373. 10.1097/MD.0000000000012373.

Cronbach’s α testing returned these results for the UCLA 3-item scale: ONS using ELSA data returned 0.824; In Russell 1996, ranged from 0.89 to 0.9.


Cost / Terms of Use

Free (No permission required)

Instructions and Scoring

The responses for the first three questions can be combined to calculate a ‘loneliness score’ from 3 to 9 for each respondent. The lowest possible combined score on the loneliness scale is 3 (indicating less frequent loneliness) and the highest is 9 (indicating more frequent loneliness). However, there is no agreed threshold above which someone would be considered lonely – and it’s more helpful to look at the average scores across your sample to see what has changed over time, and how different people score relative to the average.

The fourth question should be treated separately in terms of scoring, and the results shouldn’t be added to the aggregate score for the first three – it’s a stand alone score.



Data source name

The UCLA 3-item measure is asked in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) (Adults aged 50+)

The direct measure is asked in the Community Life Survey for adults 16+

Other surveys that have committed to using the loneliness measures are here


The UCLA 3-item measure is collected every 2 years

The direct measure is collected annually

Latest data

You can find the latest data on

The UCLA 3-item data from ELSA on the UK Data Service here

The direct measure data from the Community Life Survey is here

Link to historical data

You can find the latest data on

The UCLA 3-item measure here

The direct measure here


You can ask all questions to over 16s, but the data from these sources is available for these populations

UCLA 3-item: Over 50; Age, Sex, Marital Status, Ethnicity, pension age, Geographic

Direct measure: Over 16; Age, Sex, Marital Status, Ethnicity