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).