Health survey shows strong link between poor health and loneliness

The latest findings from the Health Survey for England 2021
Woman resting head in hands

About the study

The Health Survey for England (HSE) 2021 Part 2 is the latest in a long-running series of surveys carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), with UCL, on behalf of NHS England. The survey series covers core topics every year, including general health and key lifestyle behaviours that influence health, and social care.


  • 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 condition.
  • 27% of adults reported that they never felt lonely. However, 22% of adults felt lonely at least some of the time, including 6% who reported that they often or always felt lonely.
  • 18% of those who reported good or very good health reported that they felt lonely at least some of the time, and this proportion increased to 35% of those with fair health and to 62% of those with bad or very bad health.
  • 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 or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week or an equivalent combination of both, in sessions of 10 minutes or more.
  • Among adults who had gambled in the last 12 months, their PGSI scores identified 5.8% as engaging in at-risk or problem gambling compared with 18.2% of those who had gambled online.
  • 10% of adults had participated in any online gambling during the last 12 months.


The HSE is a survey designed to be representative of adults and children living in England. 5,880 adults and 1240 children were interviewed by telephone. A subsample of participants were also interviewed in their homes by a research nurse who measured blood pressure and took samples of blood, saliva and urine. Fieldwork took place between January 2021 and June 2022.