Charles Waldegrave is a psychologist and a social policy researcher. He Coordinates the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit in Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. He is also a joint leader of four large research programmes: New Zealand Poverty Measurement Project (NZPMP); New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing (NZLSA); and two National Science Challenge projects Loneliness and Social Isolation among Older Māori and Pacific People and Revitalising the Production of Affordable Homes to Provide for successful and Engaged Healthy Lives.
He is currently a member of a European research collaboration ROSEnet (Reducing Old-age Social Exclusion network) and is an international partner in their COST Action (Cooperation in Science and Technology in Europe).
The Impacts of Leisure and Community Participation on Loneliness
Aim: This presentation will provide results from the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing (NZLSA). The specific aim of this paper is to explore the impacts leisure and community participation have on loneliness among older citizens, and help identify policies and activities that will reduce experiences of loneliness. As leisure and community participation usually involves contact with other people but often not close emotional connection, the analysis seeks to understand what aspects and types of leisure and community participation reduce the experience of loneliness.
Methods: An extensive survey of a national random sample of over 3,000 older New Zealand citizens aged 50 years and over was carried out in two waves 2010 and 2012. The survey questionnaire included sets of question on recreational activities, volunteering and community participation alongside a loneliness scale and other health and wellbeing measures. The responses were assessed using the Gierveld Loneliness Scale and was analysed for associations with gender, marital status and ethnicity, and tested for statistical associations with a range of health and wellbeing measures, including CASP-12, WHOQoL-8, SF-12 Physical and Mental Health components, and CES-D Screening Test for Depression.
Findings: The results demonstrated significant relationships between some types of leisure and community participation activities with the independent variables. Higher loneliness scores were associated with lower levels of certain types of leisure and community participation. In particular, leisure activities that did not require close personal attachment were associated with lower loneliness scores. We estimated a linear regression of loneliness and the results showed significant relationships for and within the model.
Relevance: The results show that close emotional connection is not the only way to reduce loneliness. The experience of leisure and community participation where people are not closely connected but are sharing a mutual collective experience, is effective in reducing loneliness. The associations of leisure and community participation with health and wellbeing factors further demonstrate their health and social value. Community and policy initiatives designed to reduce loneliness often focus on functional activities like essential services or promoting closer communication. The results in this research show that pleasurable leisure and community participation experiences can reduce loneliness and enhance health and wellbeing while reducing health and welfare costs.