Following up on the social capital theme, there have been some more results released from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2009, including a question on loneliness.
Most people never feel lonely or feel lonely less frequently than once a year. However about 18% feel lonely daily or weekly. In a different question on the same subject, 22% agreed or strongly agreed that ‘loneliness has been a serious problem for me at times’.
Unsurprsingly, those who live without a partner express much higher rates of feeling lonely daily or weekly – about a third compared to just over one in ten for those with partners. But on a quick examination, other standard sociological variables (class, religion, occupation) were not obviously revealing significant loneliness differences.
I could not find a directly comparable question from earlier times, but the National Social Science Survey 1984-88 did ask a different question on loneliness. Consistently about half the population are not lonely (rarely/almost never/never compared to less often than year never). The questions are too different to compare the more frequent options directly.