Human beings are wired for social connection with others, and scientific evidence suggests it’s a core need for feeling satisfied with your life and maintaining positive mental health. When you are socially connected, you feel you belong and feel close to other people.
The lack of social connections or poor quality of social connections can be described as loneliness or social isolation, which are not good for our physical or mental health.
What is Loneliness?
Loneliness is often described as a subjective feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social connection or number of existing relationships one may have, and it can often negatively affect one’s physical and mental health. Loneliness is actual or perceived lack of connection with others or feeling uninvolved in daily life. A person can feel lonely in a room full of people, even when surrounded by friends and family.
What is Social Isolation?
Social isolation is the objective physical state of being separated from others. It can be defined by a small or non-existent social network, where social contact is infrequent or for whatever reason has decreased (death of loved ones, moving away from family, etc.). Isolation is a risk factor for loneliness because you are more likely to feel lonely if you are separated from others.
Social Isolation and Loneliness: By the Numbers
Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia. [source]
Social isolation increases a person’s risk of premature death by 29%, which exceeds the risk of obesity and several other risk factors. [source]
More than a fifth (22%) of adults in the United States say they often or always feel lonely or socially isolated. [source]
Reducing Stigma around Social Isolation and Loneliness
Social isolation and loneliness often have stigma associated with them. Due to this stigma, most people do not want to see themselves as lonely, even if that is what they are feeling. They fear being judged or seen as someone unable to make social connections or worthy of being a friend. This fear of talking about loneliness or social isolation adds to the problem and makes it harder for people to seek the social connections they need to bolster their physical and mental health. Because of this, it’s important to reduce the stigma associated with loneliness and social isolation. The first step is to talk about it. Visit our How to Talk about Loneliness resource to begin the conversation.