New Study Reveals Loneliness is an Epidemic

AVG Loneliness Score in America

Possible loneliness scores range from 20 to 80, with the total average national loneliness score in America reaching 44. Source: Cigna

On May 1st, Cigna, a global health service company, revealed results from a national survey examining the impact of loneliness in the United States.

Using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, one of the best known tools for measuring loneliness, the results showed that of the 20,000 adults (ages 18 and older) surveyed across the country:

  • Nearly half (46%) reported sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
  • Roughly 1 in 4 (27%) also reported rarely or never feeling as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Only around half of Americans(53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generationand claims to be in worse health than older generations. This finding has not been found to have a correlation with social media. Adults within this age group who use social media comparing with adults within this age group who do not use social media were found to exhibit the same percentage of loneliness.

According to David Cordani, CEO of Cigna Corp, “There’s a blurred line between mental and physical health. Oftentimes, medical symptoms present themselves and they’re correlated with mental, lifestyle, behavioral issues like loneliness.”

Another study by Julianne Holt- Lunstad, psychologist at Bringham Young University, has found loneliness to be linked with higher risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. The study also reports the influence loneliness or lack of loneliness has on our immune system and genes.

Lastly, a finding in the Cigna study shows across all age groups that respondents who said they have more in-person social interactions on a daily basis reported being less lonely. This then illustrates social connection or lack of it can be considered a social determinant of health.

A 2014 report from the Institute of Medicine recommends for health providers to collect information from their patients about social connection and social isolation along with employment, education, lifestyle, and psychological health.  While this shift has yet to be seen among health providers, data certainly shows social connection and loneliness are factors worth observing in patients. 

Written by Kristie Lui, Office of Diversity and Equity