Welfare Benefits, Wellbeing and Loneliness at Older Age

Elderly couple - welfare benefits projectIn the face of potential cuts and changes to the welfare system in the UK, this study provides an empirical investigation of the meaning of welfare and benefits amongst older people in the UK. We ask how older citizens understand their entitlement to welfare benefits, and how this relates to wellbeing. The study particularly focuses on the differences between universal and targeted benefits, with a focus on how the introduction of conditionality might impact upon daily lives.

This study is part of the SPHR Ageing Well programme theme, and is a collaboration between LSHTM, Cambridge, ScHARR (Sheffield) and FUSE (Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland & Teesside universities).


The key driver for this study is the need for baseline information for future evaluations of interventions relating to the withdrawal of universal welfare benefits, or the introduction of conditionality. There has been very little research on the impact of welfare benefits and, especially the implications of withdrawal. At times of financial constraint, when selective economic arguments are being used to advocate for ‘targeting’ of benefits at those in greatest need, there is a need for research on the effects of such targeting, especially into how it might exacerbate inequalities.



The study seeks to:

1)    identify how older citizens value the material and symbolic effects of a range of universal and conditional benefits;

2)    explore how their understanding of entitlement to universal and conditional benefits is related to the uptake and effects of benefits;

3)    identify the role of conditional and universal benefits in fostering well-being, social capital and preventing or mitigating loneliness.



This is a qualitative study using individual and group interviews with a sample of citizens aged 60+, purposively sampled in four locations to ensure diversity in terms of socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity and age bracket.

Timeframe: October 2013 – June 2014


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