Social isolation and loneliness
Social isolation and loneliness can be harmful to both mental and physical health. They are considered significant health and wellbeing issues in Australia because of the impact they have on peoples’ lives. Some of the measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as physical isolation and lockdowns, may have exacerbated pre-existing risk factors for social isolation and loneliness, such as living alone (AIHW 2023, Lim et al. in press).
Difference between social isolation and loneliness
Social isolation 'means having objectively few social relationships or roles and infrequent social contact' (Badcock et al. 2022). It differs from loneliness, which is a 'subjective unpleasant or distressing feeling of a lack of connection to other people, along with a desire for more, or more satisfying, social relationships' (Badcock et al. 2022). The 2 concepts may, but do not necessarily, co-exist – a person may be socially isolated but not lonely, or socially connected but feel lonely (Badcock et al. 2022; Relationships Australia 2018).
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2023) Australia’s welfare 2023: Social isolation and loneliness, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 8 May 2023.
Badcock JC, Holt-Lunstad J, Garcia E, Bombaci P and Lim MH (2022) Position statement: addressing social isolation and loneliness and the power of human connection, Global Initiative on Loneliness and Connection (GILC), accessed 27 April 2023.
Lim MH, Manera KE, Owen KB, Phongsavan P and Smith BJ (in press) ‘Chronic and episodic loneliness and social isolation: prevalence and sociodemographic analyses from a longitudinal Australian survey’, Research Square, doi:10.21203/rs.3.rs-1607036/v1.
Relationships Australia (2018) Is Australia experiencing an epidemic of loneliness? Findings from 16 waves of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia Survey, Relationships Australia, accessed 18 July 2023.