More than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people feeling they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship, according to a survey led by the health insurer Cigna, which found a nearly 13% rise in loneliness since 2018, partly caused by workplace culture and conditions.
The report surveyed over 10,000 adult workers using a measure of loneliness called the UCLA Loneliness Scale, used as a standard within psychology research.
Pervasive loneliness is strongly linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Evidence shows that it doesn’t end with mental health. One’s relationships, closeness, connectedness , the conversations and bonds you have with people, affect physical health as well.
Loneliness appears to be more common among men (The survey found 63% of men to be lonely, compared with 58% of women). Among heavy social media users, 73% of them considered themselves lonely, as compared with 52% of light users.
The troublesome statistic is that young people, 18 to 22 years old, had the highest average loneliness and isolation score on the 80-point scale (about 50). Boomers, however, had the lowest (about 43), which is still a significant figure.
Conditions in the workplace are important. Those with good co-worker relationships were 10 points less lonely on the 80-point scale, and where colleagues felt they shared goals, average loneliness scores dropped almost eight points. Those with a close friend at work were also less lonely.
Employers should be interested in this. Lonely workers are more likely to miss work owing to illness or stress, and feel their work is not up to par.
One optimistic note: More than three-quarters of survey respondents had close relationships that bring them emotional security and well-being. And respondents without such relationships had a loneliness score of 57 out of 80, almost 15 points higher than those with them. ( An edited, for length, version of a piece in NPR Health by Elena Renken, an NPR science desk intern. 24 Jan 2020).