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Loneliness and isolation

4-minute read

At some time in your life you may feel lonely or isolated from other people and the world around you. These feelings are normal, but there are many things you can do to overcome them.

Why do I feel lonely or isolated?

You can feel lonely or isolated for many reasons even when other people are around you.

Some reasons you might feel lonely or isolated may come from what is happening in your life, especially if you’ve experienced major changes. These include:

  • living alone or lacking close family around you
  • grieving for a friend, a spouse or your partner
  • going through a separation, divorce or family break up
  • retiring from work, changing schools or jobs, or being unemployed
  • living away from home for the first time
  • having a language or cultural barrier or being away from your culture of origin

Other reasons to feel lonely or isolated include:

How can loneliness and isolation affect my health?

Feeling connected to others is important for our mental and physical wellbeing and can protect against anxiety and depression. If you feel alone or socially isolated for a long time, you might experience physical or mental problems or do things that are bad for you.

  • Physical symptoms — such as headaches, feeling ill, having pains, feeling tired, having sleep problems or lacking motivation.
  • Mental health conditions — such as depression, feeling anxious, having panic attacks or feeling paranoid.
  • Low energy — feeling tired or not having motivation.
  • Sleep problems — not being able to get to sleep, stay asleep or waking up a lot.
  • Diet problems — such as putting on weight, losing weight or losing your appetite.
  • Negative feelings — such as feeling worthless or hopeless or thinking about suicide.
  • Substance abuse — such as drinking a lot of alcohol, misusing medicines or taking drugs.

What can help?

You can do many things to help overcome loneliness and isolation and improve your life.

Connecting with family and friends

When you’re feeling lonely, it can be challenging to connect with others but that’s just what you need to do. Reach out to a family member, workmate or neighbour. It can help you feel better and it’s likely they will appreciate a call, text or email.

Connecting with communities online or in person

You might like to join a club, organisation or online community. There are many opportunities, such as volunteering at a local charity, joining a walking or sporting club, or joining an online community for your special interest. This will help you to create and maintain meaningful friendships.

Getting out of the house and being active

Go shopping, join a club or enrol to study. Exercise is very important for improving mental health. Research has shown that regular physical activity can prevent depression.

Volunteering

Volunteering helps you make meaningful connections with people while having a sense of purpose.

Spend times with animals

Pets can also improve your physical and mental health. Pets provide companionship and love. If you have a dog, they need exercise and physical activity is important when you’re feeling low. Talking about pets is a great conversation starter when you meet people.

Where to get more help

FriendLine supports anyone who's feeling lonely, needs to reconnect or just wants a chat. You can call them 7 days a week on 1800 424 287, or chat online with one of their trained volunteers. All conversations with FriendLine are anonymous.

Feeling lonely or isolated for a long time or for no obvious reason could be a sign of depression. Talk to your doctor, a counsellor, good friends and family, or one of these organisations might be able to help you.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2022


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