Social isolation and loneliness

Social connection is important for our physical and mental well-being. It helps prevent feelings of isolation, which may cause things like anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and unhealthy lifestyle habits.

When we think about staying healthy, making sure you have social support  may easily get lost on our list of to-do’s. But while taking care of your health includes the things you might think about —  like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly — and also it also includes taking time to be with friends and family.

Who is most affected by social isolation?

While loneliness may impact anyone at some point in their life, certain groups of people may be at greater risk of spending too much of their time solo. That means they may not get much social interaction for one reason or another. It’s important to recognize people commonly affected by loneliness so you can identify them in your own life. Then maybe consider extending an invite to your next social gathering. Here’s who may benefit:1

Older adults: Older adults and seniors have an increased risk of loneliness because they may experience more things that keep them home. That includes things like mourning the loss of a loved one, managing a chronic illness or living with hearing loss that keeps them out of conversations. Plus, they are more likely to live alone.

People new to an area: Anyone new to any area may not have strong social ties to their neighborhood or local community.

People in specific groups (such as immigrants, people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersexed (LGBTQ+); people with disabilities): When people are in specific groups, they may feel like they don’t fit in with their peers, which could keep them home by themselves. For immigrants, it may be harder to meet new people and form friend groups, especially if there’s a language barrier.

What are the health risks of loneliness?

There are also very real physical and mental health side effects that may come with too much alone time. Here are a few:2

  • Increased stress
  • Hindered sleep
  • Decreased sense of purpose
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Increased inflammation
  • Poor immune system (less immunity)
  • For adults 50 and older, recent studies found that social isolation was associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia, and an overall increase in depression, anxiety and suicide.3

What are tips to help with loneliness?

Where can I find more resources on social isolation and loneliness?

This educational resource has more information on social isolation and loneliness and tips for staying connected. If you are feeling isolated or lonely a lot of the time, you may want to visit your primary care provider and share your concerns. Talking with a doctor about how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally may help them make recommendations that could be helpful to you.