Back to Blog List

Loneliness and Social Isolation Can be a Concern at Any Age

     

Social isolation and loneliness are common and concerning, and not just for older adults, according to a new international survey from Kaiser Family Foundation and The Economist.

They surveyed adults in the U.S., Japan and the United Kingdom about public perceptions of loneliness and social isolation, the role of technology, causes of loneliness and how people are coping.

Overall more than one in five adults in the U.S. reported that they often or always feel lonely, feel they lack companionship or feel left out or isolated from others. Among adults 18 to 49, 24 percent reported experiencing loneliness compared to 20 percent of adults 50 and over. People with mental illness were much more likely to feel lonely (47 percent).

alone in group.jpg

While some do not consider their loneliness a problem, most do. Among adults reporting loneliness or social isolation, half or more in all three countries said it was negatively impacting their mental health, physical health or personal relationships. A third or more also said it was impacting their ability to do their jobs. In addition, about three in 10 adults said the loneliness and isolation has led them to think about harming themselves. Previous research has linked loneliness to a range of health and mental health problems, such as heart attacks, sleep problems, depression and anxiety.

Coping with loneliness

Survey respondents offered a variety of ways that they cope with their loneliness or isolation. The most common means of coping with loneliness and isolation across all three countries was distracting oneself with television or computer or video games. Others common means included reliving memories from the past, talking to a friend or relative, browsing the internet or social media or exercising.

About four in 10 say they overeat at times and about a third say they sometimes smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. About two in 10 say they sometimes abuse alcohol or drugs when feeling lonely.

A few suggestions from mental health professionals on positive ways to cope with loneliness include acknowledging your feelings of loneliness, reaching out to a family member, trying to engage in small talk with people you encounter during the day, looking for ways to help someone or volunteer or adopting a pet. Taking a class or joining a team or hobby group may offer a place where you can connect with others over a shared interest.

Public Perception of the Problem of Loneliness and Social Isolation

More than half of respondents in the U.S. said loneliness is beyond an individual’s control; about one-quarter said people mostly have themselves to blame. About 18 percent said both or it depends. When asked about specific reasons for loneliness, the top three reasons in the U.S. (about six in 10 citing each) were long-term unemployment, adult children playing less of a role in helping aging parents and increased use of technology.

The survey also looked at people’s perception of loneliness and isolation as a public health problem versus and individual problem. Adults in the U.S. are about evenly split between the two. In the U.K, where there has been substantial effort at raising public awareness and addressing the problem in recent years, substantially more (66 percent versus 27 percent) feel it is a public health problem.

References

  • Kaiser Family Foundation. Loneliness and Social Isolation it the Untied States, the United Kingdom, and Japan: An International Survey. August 2018.
  • Cohut, M. How can we overcome loneliness? Medical News Today. January 2018
  • Exline, JJ. Coping with Loneliness: Finding Your Way Out of the Dark. Psychology Today. Jun 25, 2015

     

AnxietyDepressionPatients and Families

 

Comments (0) Add a Comment

 

Add a comment

Enter the text shown in this image:*(Input is case sensitive)
* - Only comments approved by post author will be displayed here.