People are social beings and are, as such, poorly equipped to cope with loneliness. Being alone and feeling isolated causes a very real emotional pain we’ve all felt at some point in our lives. Recent studies indicate that loneliness can have further abrasive effects on one’s health and overall wellbeing.
Last year wasn’t easy, as we had to be socially distant and in isolation to protect the people we love. This just added loneliness to a pile of stress and anxiety pandemics come with.
We truly hope 2021 will be at least a bit different, so we gathered these loneliness statistics to shed some light on the subject of loneliness and isolation, along with their consequences and impact.
Top Ten Stats and Facts About Loneliness
- According to a study from 2018, around 76% of the US respondents in their late-20s, mid-50s, and late-80s feel moderate-high levels of loneliness.
- Data suggests that people over 50 in the UK are five times more prone to feeling “often lonely” when widowed.
- In the UK, more than half of the citizens aged 75 and over lived alone in 2011.
- 3 in 5 Americans are lonely, according to a report from early 2020.
- The latest loneliness stats state that 12% of lonely workers say that their work isn’t as good as it could be.
- Users who use social networks more than 50 times a week are three times more likely to experience perceived social isolation.
- A report from 2019 found that 73% of heavy social media users feel lonely.
- Limiting the use of Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook to 30 minutes a day for three weeks improved the mental well-being of undergraduates.
- 17% of older people in the UK keep in contact with their family, neighbors, and friends less than once a week.
- Research on loneliness from 2019 claims that millennials are the loneliest generation, with around 30% saying that they often or always feel lonely.
General Loneliness Statistics
To understand this topic better, we need to go through the basics first. How many people feel alone at the moment? Who is able to cope better and how loneliness relates to other aspects of an individual’s life?
Let’s find out!
1. Around 76% of the US respondents in their late-20s, mid-50s, and late-80s feel moderate-high levels of loneliness.
(Cambridge University Press)
A study from 2018 conducted among 340 adults from San Diego showed that even moderate levels of loneliness are associated with poorer physical and mental functioning. The study found that loneliness is most prevalent in people in the age groups mentioned above.
According to the researchers, these age-related non-linear tendencies for loneliness deserve further study and may be used as base knowledge for building a less lonely society.
2. When it comes to the elderly, loneliness statistics claim that around 30–40% of senior citizens in the US are lonely.
Older studies, like the UCSF’s paper from 2012, have reported that roughly around 40% of seniors experience loneliness regularly. The latest paper from 2019 on the same topic noted that about 30% of 2,000 US senior citizens aged 50–80 socialize with their family, friends, and neighbors only once a week or less.
According to the research, this loneliness epidemic can have a wide array of negative effects on both the elders’ physical and mental health. Moreover, it can greatly affect their life expectancy.
3. Statistics on loneliness will have greater figures by 2025/6, reaching around two million UK citizens over 50 experiencing loneliness.
That’s around a 49% increase in only 10 years when looking at the estimated number in 2016/7 (1.4 million) in the UK.
4. Data suggests that people over 50 in the UK are five times more prone to feeling “often lonely” when widowed.
The loneliness statistics from ELSA also conclude that those who are in poor health are four times more likely to feel “often lonely” in comparison to those who are in good health. Additionally, those who have money issues are twice as likely to experience this as those who don’t have financial problems.
5. In the UK, around 5% of those aged 65 and over don’t see or hear from anyone for three days or more during Christmas.
When talking about loneliness at Christmas, statistics from 2017 show that around 100,000 people in the South East region of the UK feel considerably lonelier during Christmas time. Additionally, out of surveyed senior citizens, more than two in five feel that their days are repetitive.
6. In the UK, more than half of the citizens aged 75 and over lived alone in 2011.
(UK Data Service)
In regard to the elderly, loneliness statistics from the UK have already suggested that loneliness may be a serious concern. Across the 40 years of the survey (from 1973 to 2011), the proportion of senior citizens living alone remained the same. However, the proportion of adults living alone almost doubled in the same period (from 9% to 16%).
The proportion of single adult households has also increased from 2% in 1973 to 10% in 2011.
7. 3 in 5 Americans are lonely, according to a report from early 2020.
According to the latest statistics on loneliness in America, more and more people report that they often feel left out, misunderstood and that they lack companionship. The report led by the global health insurance company called Cigna found that, since 2018, loneliness has risen by 13%.
8. The latest loneliness statistics state that 12% of lonely workers say that their work isn’t as good as it could be.
Cigna’s gathered data also suggest that lonely people are less productive at the workplace, have lower retention rates, and are generally less engaged. These workers are also twice as likely to miss workdays because of illness and five times more likely to miss work because of stress.
9. Lonely workers think about quitting their job twice as often as those who do not feel lonely.
On the same note, remote workers are more likely to feel alone sometimes or always compared to non-remote employees, according to the latest survey from Cigna.
10. A survey from 2019 found that loneliness was more prevalent among men, with 63% of men feeling lonely in the US.
Also, the same stats on loneliness claim that, when it comes to women, 58% of women tend to feel lonely. Even though this isn’t that big of a difference, it still shows that men tend to feel lonely more often than women.
Social Media Isolation Statistics
This might sound like a paradox, but social media actually make people feel alone and affect their mental health in a bad way — this is how.
11. Users who visit social networks more than 50 times a week are three times more likely to experience perceived social isolation.
In contrast, those who limit their social media “intake” to less than nine times a week showed significantly fewer signs of social isolation. The study from 2017 looked at 1,787 US adults between the ages of 19 and 32 and concluded that only two hours a day on these platforms could double the chance of experiencing some form of social anxiety.
12. A report from 2019 found that 73% of heavy social media users feel lonely.
On the other hand, when it comes to social media and loneliness statistics, only 52% of “light” users have experienced the same kind of loneliness.
13. Limiting the use of Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook to 30 minutes a day for three weeks improved the mental well-being of undergraduates.
The study from the University of Pennsylvania was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2018. It claims that, out of the 143 students, those who changed their social media diet showed significantly lower levels of depression and loneliness compared to the control group that made no changes.
14. In 2017, out of 48,000 college students, around 64% reported feeling “very lonely” in the previous year.
College student loneliness statistics claim that college students are particularly vulnerable to loneliness. This is especially true for those who find it difficult to cope with the stress of college life and don’t have a well-developed social network to help them deal with their negative thoughts.
Loneliness and Health — Effects of Loneliness and Isolation
As we’ve mentioned, loneliness can have a devastating effect on one’s wellbeing. This was additionally emphasized by the worldwide pandemic which fuelled the loneliness epidemic even further. Here are just some of its effects.
15. Around 7.2% of the European population claims that they never meet up with their relatives and friends, not even on a yearly basis.
Social isolation statistics also speak of pretty large figures. For instance, a poll from 2017 found that around half a million people in the United Kingdom over the age of 60 spend most of their days without any social interaction.
16. According to a 2016 European survey, in two-thirds of the countries, around 1 in 10 people aged 65 or older never meets with friends.
Or they don’t even have friends. When talking about social isolation and the elderly, statistics claim that these trends were even more prevalent in countries like Latvia and Hungary, where these odds are 1 in 4, indicating that senior citizens are even more isolated there.
17. 17% of older people in the UK keep in contact with their family, neighbors, and friends less than once a week.
(Age UK Report 2019)
For the UK, loneliness statistics based on data gathered in 2015 claim that around 11% of older UK citizens meet up with their family, neighbors, and friends less than once a month. Also, the same research suggests that around 24% of people aged 50 and over in England felt lonely sometimes, while 7% felt lonely often.
18. Young adults report, on average, double the number of isolated and lonely days in comparison with middle-aged adults.
Even though young adults have much larger networks, loneliness statistics from 2019 show that they still feel the effects of loneliness. This shows that age is not the only factor when talking about loneliness, and young people can feel just as lonely as the elderly.
19. Since 2018, the UK has spent more than $35 million on community programs and charities to fight loneliness and bring people together.
When looking at loneliness statistics for 2018 worldwide, Chinese citizens also have it pretty rough. The country’s one-child policy came to an end in 2015, and after 36 years, over 150 million young adults have grown up without a sibling.
On the other hand, Adachi, a ward in Tokyo, formed the Power of Communities Promotion Division way back in 2011 with the goal of ending lonely deaths. One of its purposes was to make sure that senior citizens don’t become socially isolated.
People above the age of 70 who live alone and have reported lower levels of social interactions have been regularly visited by volunteer workers.
20. According to WebMD, around 1 in 4 Americans often or always feels misunderstood.
Loneliness epidemic statistics from the medical website also state that only half of Americans have meaningful in-person interactions each day, like quality time with family or long conversations with friends. Data from the site also suggest that around 1 in 5 Americans rarely feels closely connected to other people.
21. Research on the loneliness epidemic from 2019 claims that millennials are the loneliest generation, with around 30% saying that they often or always feel lonely.
According to a 2019 YouGov poll, millennials overtower the other generations. In comparison, 20% of people from Gen X say that they often or always feel lonely. This percentage was only 15% among the baby boomer respondents.
22. Around one-third of American adults that are 45 or older feel lonely.
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
And nearly one-fourth that are 65 and older are considered to be isolated. It has been known that loneliness and health are closely linked, and this 2020 report claims that people who are 50 or older are more likely to live alone and develop chronic illnesses and sensory impairments.
What percentage of the world is lonely?
Giving an exact percentage is extremely difficult. However, it’s safe to say that loneliness and mental health issues have become a pandemic with anxiety and depression increasing at a fast pace across the globe.
Additionally, statistics on loneliness and depression from the WHO’s 2015 report claim that about 4% of the world’s population suffers from depression. Also, a recent study from the Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2018 found that around 22% of Americans often feel lonely or isolated, along with 23% of British, and 9% of Japanese citizens.
(The Guardian)(The Economist)
How many people does loneliness affect?
That would be rather difficult to tell since it can also affect relatives and loved ones of the sufferer, making it even more complicated to give a precise answer with exact numbers.
For example, the charity called Action for Children conducted broader research into loneliness, including about 2,000 parents. According to the results, around 68% of them felt “cut off” from their family, friends, and colleagues after their child’s arrival.
However, this doesn’t affect just them, as lonely parents often worry that their anxiety may affect their children as well. Plus, it’s safe to say that having less time to spend with friends does affect those friends as well, especially if it used to be a close friendship.
(DailyMail)(The Atlantic)(The Irish Times)
What percentage of seniors are lonely?
In the US, a study from 2012 conducted by the University of California has reported that over 40% of seniors experience loneliness regularly. Also, the latest National Poll on Healthy Aging has disclosed that around one-third of US seniors feel lonely.
More than a third of the 2,000 American senior respondents of the poll (ages 50 to 80) said that they feel lonely some of the time, and 27% said that they sometimes or often feel isolated. Additionally, according to these senior citizen loneliness statistics, 30% of seniors socialize only once a week or less.
As stated by the authors of the research, loneliness can have a negative impact on seniors’ memory, mental health, physical well-being, and even life expectancy. In fact, the last one may be shortened more severely by loneliness than by being overweight.
Why are people lonely?
There are many potential reasons for loneliness, and there are a lot of contributing factors and situational variables that come into play. For instance, moving to a new location, divorcing, and being physically isolated can all contribute to feeling lonely. The death of a loved one can also lead to loneliness, which can become a symptom of underlying psychological disorders, like depression.
Internal factors such as low self-esteem can also contribute to this epidemic of loneliness. When a person lacks confidence, they often believe that they are not worthy of anybody’s attention, which can lead to them isolating themselves and developing chronic loneliness.
How does loneliness impact health?
Loneliness can pose serious health risks to people, with a wide range of side effects that can be both mental and physical. It can lead to bad decisions like alcoholism and drug use.
It can further the progressions of Alzheimer’s disease, and it can lead to antisocial behavior. Additionally, loneliness can affect and alter brain functions, lead to stroke and other cardiovascular complications, and it can also decrease learning capacity and memory.
In more severe cases, loneliness can lead to depression, which can then evoke suicidal thoughts and may end up causing some people to take their own life. Lastly, loneliness can also increase stress levels.
As you can see, statistics on loneliness paint a serious picture, which should push society to address this growing concern that creeps into every walk of our lives.
These figures also show that loneliness isn’t only prevalent among the elderly. Younger generations are heavily affected, and certain things like social media and the pandemic can worsen the situation.
The numbers are here, and it’s clear that these loneliness statistics are talking about a serious problem that needs to be addressed. After all, loneliness doesn’t affect only those who feel it but their friends and loved ones as well.
- Age UK
- Age UK
- Age UK Report 2019
- Cambridge University Press
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- First Post
- Harvard Health
- No Isolation
- The Atlantic
- The Economist
- The Guardian
- The Irish Times
- UK Data Service