Did the overall level of loneliness change over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Bottom Line:

Over the course of the social distancing measures, individuals in this study felt increased support. Additionally, older individuals felt less lonely overall, when compared to their younger counterparts.

Reference:

Luchetti, M. et al. The Trajectory of Loneliness in Response to COVID-19. Am Psychol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000690

Date Published:

22 June 2020

Synopsis:

This study aimed to better understand the development of loneliness in 1,545 American adults throughout the course of social distancing up to this point. They looked at levels of loneliness and perceived support during this time, over the course of three waves of surveys. The researchers found that, over these waves, as time went on, there was a slight but overall decrease in feelings of isolation but an increase in the number of unavailable social connections. To put this in plain words, once social distancing measures were implemented, the participants of this survey did not feel increased isolation, however they did notice a reduction in their number of social contacts, at the beginning. When looking specifically at age, loneliness increased over the first two waves for participants over the age of 65 years, then stabilized for the third wave. This trend was the same for unavailable social connections for both middle-aged and older adults, but was not seen in younger adults. In general, though, older adults felt less lonely overall when compared to individuals who were middle-aged and younger. It is important to note that there were no significant changes, over the waves, in the average level of loneliness. It is also important to note that participants with chronic diseases felt more lonely and reduced support when compared to individuals who did not have chronic disease and/or lived with other people. Overall, this study indicates the importance of support mechanisms for individuals of all ages, especially those who are at higher risk of loneliness and have less social support.

Summary by: Max Solish