The impact of social isolation and loneliness (2023)

Dolly, an elderly woman who lives alone, expects to play bridge with her friends several hours a day. That means untilCOVID 19. With protection in place and recommendations forCenters for Disease Control and PreventionTo allow the elderly to stay at home, Dolly has had no social interaction for over two months and feels it is taking a toll on her mental health - she cites feelings of loneliness and bouts of lonelinessDepressionDuring this time.

Dolly isn't the only one who feels socially isolated and lonely. While COVID-19 has magnified it, more than before the crisisone thirdof adults aged 45 and over felt lonely andone in fiveAmericans said they felt lonely or socially isolated. Living alone can be one of the risk factors for loneliness and according to the US. Census Bureau, 28 percent of older adults live alone.

lonelinessit has become a "hot" topic due to COVID-19. The reason people are openly discussing this now is that we can blame the virus for our loneliness, and it removes the stigma that is usually associated with loneliness," said Dr. Ami Rokach, clinical psychologist and author ofLoneliness, love and everything in between.

According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social isolationit's the lack of social connections. It's important to note the distinction: social isolation can lead to loneliness for some people, while others may feel lonely without being socially isolated.

The impact of social isolation and loneliness on:

Mental Health Month

While social distancing and local protection are helping to flatten the curve of the pandemic, there are unintended impacts on mental and cognitive health. According toKaiser Family Foundation, about 45% of adults in the United States say they worry andto emphasizerelated to the pandemic are having a negative impact on their mental health.

coincidentally it's mayMental Health Month, a survey conducted in the United States since 1949 to raise awareness and provide practical tools for mental health care. Taking care of your mental health is an especially important reminder today, as people during this time may experience higher levels of stress, loneliness* and depression, which can put them at greater risk for health issues such as depression.insanity.


While there aren't many studies on the short-term effects of social isolation and loneliness, a recent NASEM report suggested that "high levels of loneliness, infrequent social contact, and low group participation" were associated with about one50 per centincreased risk of dementia.

(Video) Social Isolation and Loneliness Q&A

And in a 2018 study by the Florida State University College of Medicine, loneliness was shown to increase the risk of dementia.40 percent.

Furthermore, loneliness increases the risk of depression, and failure to treat depression is thought to be responsible.4 percentthe onset of dementia.

The economy

With age, the likelihood of becoming socially isolated due to loss of loved ones, lack of family, loss of social contacts due toretirementand declining health. Social isolation among seniors costs Medicare, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute$6.7 billionin federal expenditures annually. AARP seeks to raise awareness and highlight risk factors for loneliness and social isolationdata sheet.

The importance of social interaction and connection

Studies show that social interaction (and other modifiable lifestyle factors like adequate sleep, exercise, and healthy eating)Diet) can avoid thisat risk of dementiaworldwide at 35 percent. ANDTo look forshowed that dementia prevention was even higher in low-income countries: India (41%), China (40%) and a sample of Latin American countries (56%).

Essential Loneliness Readings

(Video) Effects social isolation and loneliness have on mental and physical health - Dr. Laura Saunders

It is important for people to regularly engage in meaningful social interactions to maintain brain health at any age. Alearnperformed by Dr. Lisa Berkman of Harvard University found that socially active people experienced less declineStore. The most sociable reported half the memory loss compared to the least sociable. Despite accounting for other demographic data, such as age,Gender, race and health, the statistics remained unchanged.

(Video) Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults / Focus on Aging: Federal Partners’ Webinar Series

When on-site protection remains in place and meetings or physical social activities are not possible, there are many other virtual ways and activities to help you feel connected, less lonely and improve cognitive health. Encouraged Jonathan Kanter, director of the Center for the Science of Social Connection at the University of Washingtonvideo chatand call regularly to catch up with friends and family. The National Institutes of Health found that just 10 minutes of daily social interaction can boost performance on cognitive assessments and provide an important cognitive edge as you age.

I'm a big advocate of connecting with friends and loved ones to improve cognitive health. However, it is important to note that just because a person is surrounded by people does not mean that he or she feels less lonely or that the likelihood of developing dementia decreases. For both boxes to be ticked, individuals must be involved and participate in social activities outside the family, so simply living with family members does not provide the right kind of social interaction to ensure cognitive benefits.

However, we are in extraordinary circumstances right now, so use technology as an alternative to make those meaningful connections: meet your friends for dinner or cook healthy meals together via video conference. It is also important to rethink. Rather than seeing it as social isolation or loneliness, see it as an opportunity for introspection and a time to try new things when we couldn't before or perhaps didn't appreciate it.

As the dust settles from COVID-19 and we get back to our normal lives, it's important to maintain the connections we've made and stay socially engaged - whether it's joining a bridge club , volunteering with community groups or traveling to meet new people and try new experiences. Human beings are social creatures and it is part of our cognitive and mental health to connect with each other now and later to enrich our lives and help us get through difficult times.

Contact your doctor or psychiatrist if you or someone you know needs support or contact.

*Em 2017Meta-analysisCo-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology andneuroscienceBrigham Young University Professor Found That Loneliness Is As Bad For Your Health As It IsSmoke15 cigarettes a day and twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. Social isolation can increase mortality by 29%.


Hsiao, Y.H., Chang, CH, & Gean, P.W. (2018). Influence of social relationships on memory impairment in Alzheimer's: mechanistic studies. Journal of biomedical science, 25(1), 3.

Savikko M, Routasalo P, Tilvis RS, Strandberg TE, Pitkala KH. Predictors and subjective causes of loneliness in an elderly population. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2005;41:223-233.

Angelina R Sutin, PhD, Yannick Stephan, PhD, Martina Luchetti, PhD, Antonio Terracciano, PhD, Loneliness and Dementia Risk, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, , gby112,

Lupien SJ, McEwen BS, Gunnar MR et al. (2009) Lifetime effects of stress on brain, behavior, and cognition. nat. Rev. Neurosci 10, 434-445.

Geerlings MI, Gerritsen L (2017) Depression in old age, hippocampal volume, and regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Biol Psychiatry 82, 339-350.

(Video) Stay Connected to Combat Loneliness and Social Isolation


The impact of social isolation and loneliness? ›

Social isolation significantly increased a person's risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.

How do social isolation and loneliness impact society? ›

Studies show that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher risks for health problems such as heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline. If you are in poor health, you may be more likely to be socially isolated or lonely.

What are the side effects of isolation and loneliness? ›

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and even death.

What is the impact of social isolation? ›

Research has shown that chronic social isolation increases the risk of mental health issues like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, as well as chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It also raises the risk of dementia in older adults.

What impact can loneliness isolation have on an individual? ›

Feeling lonely can also have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Some research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.

Why social isolation is worse than loneliness? ›

Loneliness and social isolation are often correlated, but they are not one and the same. Loneliness is a subjective feeling. Social isolation is an objective condition. Research suggests that social isolation is a greater risk factor for health than loneliness.

How does loneliness affect the people around you? ›

Loneliness can leave people feeling isolated and disconnected from others. It is a complex state of mind that can be caused by life changes, mental health conditions, poor self-esteem, and personality traits. Loneliness can also have serious health consequences including decreased mental wellness and physical problems.

What are 3 consequences of isolation? ›

Hawkley points to evidence linking perceived social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.

What is how social isolation is killing us about? ›

Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors.

How does social isolation affect emotional development? ›

The longer some kids are out of school/activities, the more anxious and avoidant they may become. Anxiety in children can surface as more tantrums, clinginess, physical complaints, refusals and distracted behaviour. Teens may appear more irritable, argumentative or tired/withdrawn.

How impactful is loneliness? ›

Per the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a 75-year longitudinal study of men, loneliness is toxic. The more isolated people are, the less happy they are, and brain function declines as well as physical health.

Does lack of socialization have permanent effects? ›

Whether it is because the teen is overly shy or cannot seem to find a peer group to fit in to, a lack of socialization can have a permanent effect. Loneliness has been associated with a number of poor mental health outcomes.

What are the risk factors for social isolation? ›

Factors that prevent people from engaging with others, such as long-term illness, disabilities, transportation issues, unemployment, or exposure to domestic or community violence, may increase social isolation and loneliness.

Why is social isolation so painful? ›

Cole found that social isolation sets off antiviral responses in the body linked to survival tactics from thousands of years ago, proving that our bodies perceive loneliness as a life or death situation. However, rather than being a positive, this defensive response drives inflammation in the body that can be toxic.

Who is most affected by loneliness? ›

Loneliness and disabled people

Younger Brits report higher levels of loneliness (April 2023) Our analysis of the latest ONS statistics reveal that those aged between 16-29 are over two times as likely to report feeling lonely often or always than those over 70, with those aged between 30-49 close behind.

What are the long term effects of isolation? ›

Chronically lonely people have higher blood pressure, are more vulnerable to infection, and are also more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Loneliness also interferes with a whole range of everyday functioning, such as sleep patterns, attention and logical and verbal reasoning.

How does loneliness affect social interaction? ›

"Lonely people tend to perceive their social interactions as more negative, and respond in a way that is negative. So these negative perceptions could keep someone in that cycle of loneliness because they are expecting the interaction is going to go poorly and then they may act in a way that is not fun to be around.

How does isolation affect mental health? ›

Studies show that feelings of isolation can be linked to: Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Less restful sleep. ‌Decreased ability to regulate eating.

Can humans survive without social interaction? ›

Social isolation, which happens when a person has little or no contact with others, is a dangerous condition. The form of extreme self-exile has been linked to a host of debilitating health problems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

What does extreme loneliness feel like? ›

It's characterized by constant and unrelenting feelings of being alone, separated or divided from others, and an inability to connect on a deeper level. It can also be accompanied by deeply rooted feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, or social anxiety.

Why is isolation so difficult for humans to withstand? ›

One of the reasons that living in isolation is difficult is because humans are social creatures. Many people that have lived in isolated environments – such as researchers stationed in Antarctica – report that loneliness can be the most difficult part of the job.

Why do people isolate themselves socially? ›

Isolation is a result of anxiety and depression in that some individuals use it as a self-induced coping mechanism to deal with excessive worry and avoid human interaction.

What does isolation do to your brain? ›

It is clear that the chronic experience of social isolation escalates the risk of depression and dementias, as well as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer6,7,8.

How does loneliness affect the world? ›

"Lacking encouragement from family or friends, those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits," Valtorta says. "In addition, loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body. Loneliness can also augment depression or anxiety."

How does social isolation affect social development? ›

As argued, socially isolated children are at increased risk of health problems in adulthood. Furthermore, studies on social isolation have demonstrated that a lack of social relationships negatively impacts the development of the brain's structure.

How does isolation impact socialization and the sense of self? ›

Being alone can be relaxing, meditative, and rejuvenating. Social isolation typically refers to solitude that is unwanted and unhealthy. Socially isolated people may lack friends or close coworkers, and they often feel lonely or depressed. They can suffer from low self-esteem or anxiety.

What is the social impact of isolation or quarantine? ›

Social isolation has been linked to cognitive impairment, reduced immunity, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and ultimately, mortality (Cohen et al., 1997; Bassuk et al., 1999; Barth et al., 2010; Heffner et al., 2011).

How is social isolation killing us? ›

Loneliness and social isolation raise the likelihood of coronary heart disease and stroke,2 result in poor cardiovascular and mental health outcomes,3 and drastically increase the likelihood of death.

How does isolation affect happiness? ›

While this can have negative effects on mental health, it can also harm physical health. For example, research has found that perceived social isolation is associated with depression, cognitive decline, heart troubles, and a weakened immune system.


1. Social Isolation, Loneliness, and COVID-19
(AMA Journal of Ethics)
2. The Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness on Health - Listen Well Podcast Episode 11 by Viatris
3. Reducing social isolation and loneliness
(Nordic Welfare Centre)
4. Loneliness & Isolation | Aging Matters | NPT Reports
(NPT Reports)
5. What Social Isolation Does To Your Brain – How To Undo The Damage
(Dr. Tracey Marks)
6. Stay Connected to Combat Loneliness and Social Isolation
(National Institute on Aging)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Last Updated: 04/05/2023

Views: 6203

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Birthday: 1995-01-14

Address: 55021 Usha Garden, North Larisa, DE 19209

Phone: +6812240846623

Job: Corporate Healthcare Strategist

Hobby: Singing, Listening to music, Rafting, LARPing, Gardening, Quilting, Rappelling

Introduction: My name is Foster Heidenreich CPA, I am a delightful, quaint, glorious, quaint, faithful, enchanting, fine person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.