Numerous studies over the years have shown that human connection is important for our health and wellbeing.

It’s normal to experience loneliness from time to time. But lengthy periods of loneliness or social isolation can increase our risk of some physical and mental health conditions.

We explore the negative effects of social isolation and the importance of human connection here.

Effects of Social Isolation on Mental Health

All humans have a basic need for social connection. It’s in our DNA, along with our need for food, water, and shelter.

When this need isn’t met, our mental health and emotional wellbeing can suffer.

Social isolation can lead to:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Negative feelings such as worthlessness.

Loneliness has also been reported as a risk factor for alcohol and drug abuse, as people experiencing the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness may turn to substances to cope with these feelings.

 

Effects of Social Isolation on Physical Health

Social isolation and loneliness aren’t just risk factors for poor mental health and emotional issues – they can also have serious impacts on our physical health.

Research has proven loneliness is just as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It can significantly increase the risk of developing health conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cognitive decline
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Weakened immune system.

    Studies even show that social isolation is a significant contributor to early death.

Feeling connected to others can be a protective factor against these physical and mental health conditions. It can also help create a sense of belonging and purpose, increase our resilience in tough times, and improve our overall life satisfaction.

If you’re struggling with loneliness, our counsellors offer a safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings and find ways to cope. You can learn more about our counselling service here, or call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment.

We list some tips to overcome social isolation in this blog post.