Table of contents


Adults :: Social Isolation [Update in progress] :: Summary


Social isolation occurs when a person has little or no social interaction with other people and society. It is different from loneliness, which is concerned with negative feelings that an individual may have due to of a lack or loss of meaningful social relationships.

Social isolation can affect anyone, although, older people are one group of the population at particular risk. Older people may experience a reduction in household income, loss of a partner and deterioration of physical health. All of which can have an impact on social contact.

The concepts of social isolation and loneliness are frequently used interchangeably but are defined as two distinct concepts. Loneliness' is a subjective negative feeling of a lack or loss of meaningful social relationships (e.g. loss of a partner or children relocating), while 'social isolation' is an objective measurement to indicate a lack of social interaction and relationships caused by loss of mobility or deteriorating health.[1]

It is possible to have very few social contacts or relationships without feeling lonely and conversely individuals can live a seemingly rich social life and feel lonely nevertheless.[2]


[1]   Biordi D, Nicholson N. Social Isolation In: Larsen, P.D. and Lubkin, I.M. (Eds) Chronic illness: Impact and intervention (7th ed) 2008;
[2]   Coyle C, Dugan E. Social isolation, loneliness and health among older adults. Journal of aging and health 2012; 24 (8): 1346-1363.