Fact Sheet: Isolation and Loneliness

March 22, 2018

Health risks associated with loneliness and social isolation are comparable to the dangers of smoking and obesity, increasing mortality risk by up to 30%. Feeling alone increases the risk of death by 26%, while social isolation and living alone increases mortality risk by 29% and 32%, respectively, according to a March 2015 study.

  • Social connections have a profound influence on risk for mortality and are associated with a 30% increased risk of early death.
  • Loneliness is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad.
    Loneliness affects more than one-third of American adults, with particular likelihood among individuals facing challenging life circumstances like loss of a loved one, and chronic or catastrophic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, mental illness or cancer.
  • Loneliness has negative effects on mental health, worsening depression, anxiety, mood disorders and cognitive decline, and on physical health, leading to higher rates cardiovascular impairment, chronic pain, and fatigue.
  • Certain age groups, notably adolescents, young adults and older adults seem to be particularly at risk as marked by growing incidence of depression, substance abuse, and suicide.
  • External factors may be accelerating the crisis; research indicates, for instance, Internet and social media engagement exacerbate feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety, according to a 2014 annual survey of college students.
  • Here’s a 2018 overview of current research on the public health risks of isolation and loneliness.

Selected Reading:


The Foundation for Art & Healing