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Mental Health and Wellness

Social isolation and loneliness

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Connecting with others and a feeling of belonging are important to your mental health. Social isolation and loneliness are concerns that can affect every part of your health and well-being.

What is social isolation?

Social isolation happens when you’re physically alone and have little or no contact with other people. It can be for a long time or a short time.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is feeling that you’re alone, empty, or separated from others. You can feel lonely even when you have lots of people around you.

How do social isolation and loneliness affect each other?

Social isolation and loneliness may happen on their own. You can be socially isolated but not lonely, or you can feel lonely even when you’re with other people.

They can also be related. When you aren’t around others for a long time, it can cause you to feel very lonely. Or you may feel lonely, which makes it hard for you to connect with others and leads to social isolation.

How can social isolation and loneliness affect my health?

Social isolation and loneliness can affect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They can lead to health problems like heart disease, mental health concerns such as depression and dementia, and early death.

Who is at risk for problems from social isolation and loneliness?

Social isolation and loneliness can affect anyone, regardless of age, income, gender, religious beliefs, or what you do for work. But you may be at higher risk if you:

  • are an older adult
  • are a child or youth
  • are gender or sexually diverse
  • live alone
  • have a low income
  • have a chronic illness, mental health concern, or a disability
  • lost your job or are retired

What can I do about it?

Here are some ways you can prevent social isolation and loneliness for yourself and others:

  • Connect with friends and family through technology such as over the phone, text, or video chat.
  • Participate in community events.
  • Try new things like music, painting, or curling—whatever interests you.
  • Make new connections—volunteer, join a social club, or group activity. Some examples include a new parents group chat, bird watching group, online book club, swim class.
  • Reach out to people if you’re worried about them, and offer to support each other.

Current as of: January 6, 2022

Author: Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services