Living with grown-up children can make the elderly feel more lonely.

There is one area where Asian immigrants, especially from the Indian subcontinent, have always felt a touch superior to their native British hosts — namely, the extended family system. Apart from its other supposed virtues, it is said to be a boon for old people who, it is claimed, feel less lonely in the company of their near and dear ones than their “unfortunate” cousins who are forced to live alone.

But a new study claims that it is a myth. On the contrary, living with grown-up children in old age can make people feel even lonelier than if they were living alone, it says.

Research by Christina Victor, a leading expert on ageing and professor of public health at Brunel University, showed that elderly people living in extended families in Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese communities felt most lonely.

The proportion of old people in these communities who “often or always’’ felt lonely was twice the proportion of white elderly people who lived away from their children. The only exceptions were elderly Indians who reported comparatively low levels of loneliness.

So, why are extended families such lonely places for their elderly members.

“We often overlook the fact that in inter-generational homes family members are out most of the day either at work or at school, leaving the elderly relatives on their own for many hours at a time,” said Professor Victor promising more research to nail the myth of happy extended families.

Hasan Suroor