Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. You can be alone, yet not lonely. You can feel lonely in a houseful of people.
It’s a feeling that you’re disconnected from others, with no one to confide in. It’s a lack of meaningful relationships and it can happen to children, older adults, and everyone in between.
Through technology, we have more access to each other than ever before. You might feel more connected to the world when you find “friends” on social media, but it doesn’t always ease the ache of loneliness.
Almost everybody feels lonely at some point, and that’s not necessarily detrimental. Sometimes, it’s a temporary state of affairs due to circumstance, like when you move to a new town, get divorced, or lose a loved one. Getting more involved in social activities and meeting new people can usually help you move forward.
But this can be difficult at times, and the longer your isolation continues, the harder it can be to change. Maybe you don’t know what to do, or maybe you’ve tried without success.
This can be a problem, because persistent loneliness can have a negative impact on your emotional and physical health. In fact, loneliness has been associated with depression, suicide, and physical illness.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing loneliness, know that the solution can be simple. Connecting more with others and meeting new people can help you move forward.
That’s where these resources come in. They provide options for connecting with others in many ways, from volunteering for a cause, to meeting people with similar interests, to even adopting a dog or cat to serve as a loyal companion.
So go ahead — explore these sites and find the ones that best fit the unique needs of you or someone you’re concerned about. Look around, click some links, and take the next step toward overcoming loneliness and finding meaningful connection with others.
- The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) works to improve the lives of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI Programs include an abundance of educational opportunities, outreach and advocacy, and support services around the country.
- Halfofus.com can help you begin addressing loneliness or any mental health issue you’re struggling with.
- VolunteerMarch.org puts volunteers together with causes they care about in their own neighborhoods. There is some evidence that volunteering can alleviate loneliness. If you’re seeking social connection or a sense of purpose, but don’t know how to go about it, this searchable database can help get you started.
- MeetUp.com is an online tool to help you meet new people face-to-face. Search the site to find people near you who share common interests. You can join a group to see where and when they meet and decide if you want to give it a try. There’s no obligation to stick with a group once you’ve joined.
- The ASPCA can help you locate the nearest animal shelter and pets who need a home. A 2014 study concluded that owning a pet may offer benefits for well-being, including easing loneliness.
- The Lonely Hour is a podcast in which people open up about their struggles with loneliness and isolation. Sometimes, it’s helpful to hear that we’re not alone in these feelings, and encouraging to learn how others deal with it.
Unfortunately, there’s still a certain amount of stigma attached to mental health conditions. The resulting social isolation can certainly add to feelings of loneliness. Long-term loneliness is also associated with depression and suicidal thoughts.
If you have a mental health condition, such as depression or substance abuse, having no one to lean on can make it harder to seek the help you need.
Whether your first steps are through an online chat or a mental health hotline, talking it over with someone is a good place to start. Ask your doctor to refer you to resources in your area.
We’ve also put together some mental health resources you can try right now:
- Mental Health America provides a wealth of information, including online support groups for specific needs. They can also steer you toward groups in your area.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available around the clock to help you when you’re in crisis. Hotline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).
- Daily Strength connects people with common issues for mutual support.
- Boys Town has a 24/7 crisis line for teens and parents, staffed by trained counselors. Hotline: 800-448-3000.
- Childhelp offers support for child and adult survivors of abuse. Call the hotline 24/7: 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a confidential Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator and a 24/7 hotline: 800-662-HELP (800-662-4357).
When chronic illness and disability make it hard for you to get around, social isolation can creep up on you. You might feel that your old friends aren’t as supportive as they once were, and you’re spending more time alone than you would like.
Loneliness can negatively affect health, so it becomes a loop of emotional and physical negativity.
One way to break the cycle is to actively work on expanding your network of friends. You can start with people who also have physical health challenges. Search for mutually supportive relationships where you can share ideas on how to overcome loneliness and isolation.
Here are some places to connect and other resources you can try out right now:
- The Rare Disease United Foundation provides a list of Facebook Groups by state to help people with rare diseases share information and events at a local level.
- Healing Well provides a host of forums by condition. Join a community and find out what works for others in a similar situation.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provides a list of resources for a variety of chronic diseases and conditions.
- But You Don't Look Sick is on a mission to help people with chronic illness or disability to feel less alone and live their lives to the fullest.
- Programs 4 People is a program of the Invisible Disabilities Association. The comprehensive resource page includes a multitude of issues relating to chronic health conditions.
There are many reasons a teen might be lonely, but they’re not always obvious. Things like family problems, finances, and bullying can push teens into social isolation. It might be especially hard for shy or introverted teens to break through.
These programs were formed with teens in mind:
- The Boys and Girls Clubs of America gives kids and teens opportunities to socialize and participate in sports and other activities, rather than staying home alone.
- Covenant House provides help for homeless and at-risk kids.
- The JED Foundation focuses on helping teens overcome the challenges of transitioning from childhood to adulthood.
- Stop Bullying provides tips on how to deal with bullying, with different sections for kids, parents, and others.
There are a variety of reasons older adults experience loneliness. The kids are grown and the house is empty. You’ve retired from a long career. Health problems have left you unable to socialize like you used to.
As with other age groups, things can get better if you develop friendships and join activities that provide a sense of purpose.
Here are some loneliness resources for older adults:
- Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly is a nonprofit that puts volunteers together with older adults who feel lonely or forgotten.
- Senior Corps Programs helps adults 55 and older volunteer in a number of ways, and they provide the training you need. Foster Grandparents will match you with a child who needs a mentor and friend. RSVP helps you volunteer in your community in a variety of ways, from disaster relief to tutoring. Through Senior Companions, you can help other older adults who just need a little help to remain in their own home.
A study of U.S. veterans age 60 and older found that loneliness is widespread. And it’s associated with the same negative physical and mental effects as other groups.
Traumatic events, perceived stress, and PTSD symptoms were positively associated with loneliness. Secure attachment, dispositional gratitude, and more involvement in religious services were negatively associated with loneliness.
The transition from the military to civilian life is a major change, no matter how old you are. Feeling lonely isn’t unusual, but it doesn’t have to continue.
These resources were created with veterans in mind:
- The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 to provide confidential support for veterans in crisis and their loved ones. Hotline: 800-273-8255. You can also text to 838255 or engage in an online chat.
- The Veterans Crisis Line also has a Resource Locator so you can find services close to home.
- Make the Connection provides information on how to improve relationships and transition from military to civilian life. They can also help you find in-person services close to home.
- The Mission Continues helps keep your mission alive by showing you how to get involved in community projects with a purpose.
- The Warrior Canine Connection uses clinically based canine connection therapy to help you reconnect with your family, community, and life in general. Participants can train a puppy as a service dog that will eventually help wounded veterans.
Whatever your reasons for moving to a new country, navigating it can be a challenge. You’ve left familiar surroundings, friends, and perhaps even family behind. It can be a socially isolating experience, leading to profound loneliness.
You’ll start meeting people through your work, your neighborhood, or places of worship and schools. Even so, there will be a period of adjustment that may, at times, be frustrating.
Getting to know the culture, language, and customs of the people in your new community is the first step toward making acquaintances that may turn into lasting friendships.
Here are a few places to start the process:
- The Learning Community addresses the challenges involved in adapting to life in the United States. They provide tips for understanding American culture and customs, including learning the language. They’ll also point you to government services designed to help immigrant children and families.
- America's Literacy Directory is a searchable database of literacy programs, including English as a second language and citizenship or civics education.
- The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers a list of volunteer opportunities for immigrants.
You may be lonely because you feel disconnected from people and lack meaningful, supportive relationships. When that goes on too long, it can lead to feelings of sadness and rejection, which can stop you from reaching out to others.
Taking those first steps can be intimidating, but you can break the cycle.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of loneliness. Consider your own wants and needs. Think about activities that pique your interest or provide some connection to others.
You don’t have to wait for someone else to strike up a conversation or a friendship. Take a chance on being first. If that doesn’t work out, try something or someone else. You’re worth the effort.