Effects of having no friends

The risks of social isolation


CE credits: 1

Learning objectives:  After reading this article, CE candidates will be able to: 

  1. Identify the effects of social isolation and loneliness on physical, mental and cognitive health.
  2. Explore how loneliness differs from social isolation.
  3. Discuss evidence-based interventions for combating loneliness.

For more information on earning CE credit for this article, go to www.apa.org/ed/ce/resources/ce-corner.

According to a 2018 national survey by Cigna, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they feel isolated.

Such numbers are alarming because of the health and mental health risks associated with loneliness. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. She’s also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity (Perspectives on Psychological Science , Vol. 10, No. 2, 2015).

"There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators," Holt-­Lunstad says.

In an effort to stem such health risks, campaigns and coalitions to reduce social isolation and loneliness—an individual’s perceived level of social isolation—have been launched in Australia, ­Denmark and the United Kingdom. These national programs bring together research experts, nonprofit and government agencies, community groups and skilled volunteers to raise awareness of loneliness and address social isolation through evidence-based interventions and advocacy.

But is loneliness really increasing, or is it a condition that humans have always experienced at various times of life? In other words, are we becoming lonelier or just more inclined to recognize and talk about the problem?

These are tough questions to answer because historical data about loneliness are scant. Still, some research suggests that social isolation is increasing, so loneliness may be, too, says Holt-Lunstad. The most recent U.S. census data, for example, show that more than a quarter of the population lives alone—the highest rate ever recorded. In addition, more than half of the population is unmarried, and marriage rates and the number of children per household have declined since the previous census. Rates of volunteerism have also decreased, according to research by the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute, and an increasing percentage of Americans report no religious affiliation—suggesting declines in the kinds of religious and other institutional connections that can provide community.

"Regardless of whether loneliness is increasing or remaining stable, we have lots of evidence that a significant portion of the population is affected by it," says Holt-­Lunstad. "Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need—crucial to both well-being and survival."

As experts in behavior change, psychologists are well-positioned to help the nation combat loneliness. Through their research and public policy work, many psychologists have been providing data and detailed recommendations for advancing social connection as a U.S. public health priority on both the societal and individual levels.

"With an increasing aging population, the effects of loneliness on public health are only anticipated to increase," Holt-Lunstad says. "The challenge we face now is figuring out what can be done about it."

Who is most likely?

Loneliness is an experience that has been around since the beginning of time—and we all deal with it, according to Ami Rokach, PhD, an instructor at York University in Canada and a clinical psychologist. "It’s something every single one of us deals with from time to time," he explains, and can occur during life transitions such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or a move to a new place. This kind of loneliness is referred to by researchers as reactive loneliness.

Problems can arise, however, when an experience of loneliness becomes chronic, Rokach notes. "If reactive loneliness is painful, chronic loneliness is torturous," he says. Chronic loneliness is most likely to set in when individuals either don’t have the emotional, mental or financial resources to get out and satisfy their social needs or they lack a social circle that can provide these benefits, says psychologist Louise Hawkley, PhD, a senior research scientist at the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

"That’s when things can become very problematic, and when many of the major negative health consequences of loneliness can set in," she says.

Last year, a Pew Research Center survey of more than 6,000 U. S. adults linked frequent loneliness to dissatisfaction with one’s family, social and community life. About 28 percent of those dissatisfied with their family life feel lonely all or most of the time, compared with just 7 percent of those satisfied with their family life. Satisfaction with one’s social life follows a similar pattern: 26 percent of those dissatisfied with their social lives are frequently lonely, compared with just 5 percent of those who are satisfied with their social lives. One in five Americans who say they are not satisfied with the quality of life in their local communities feel frequent loneliness, roughly triple the 7 percent of Americans who are satisfied with the quality of life in their communities.

And, of course, loneliness can occur when people are surrounded by others—on the subway, in a classroom, or even with their spouses and children, according to Rokach, who adds that loneliness is not synonymous with chosen isolation or solitude. Rather, loneliness is defined by people’s levels of satisfaction with their connectedness, or their perceived social isolation.

Effects of loneliness and isolation

As demonstrated by a review of the effects of perceived social isolation across the life span, co-authored by Hawkley, loneliness can wreak havoc on an individual’s physical, mental and cognitive health (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B , Vol. 370, No. 1669, 2015). Hawkley points to evidence linking perceived social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life. In addition, a 2019 study led by Kassandra Alcaraz, PhD, MPH, a public health researcher with the American Cancer Society, analyzed data from more than 580,000 adults and found that social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause for every race (American Journal of Epidemiology , Vol. 188, No. 1, 2019). According to Alcaraz, among black participants, social isolation doubled the risk of early death, while it increased the risk among white participants by 60 to 84 percent.

"Our research really shows that the magnitude of risk presented by social isolation is very similar in magnitude to that of obesity, smoking, lack of access to care and physical inactivity," she says. In the study, investigators weighted several standard measures of social isolation, including marital status, frequency of religious service attendance, club meetings/group activities and number of close friends or relatives. They found that overall, race seemed to be a stronger predictor of social isolation than sex; white men and women were more likely to be in the least isolated category than were black men and women.

The American Cancer Society study is the largest to date on all races and genders, but previous research has provided glimpses into the harmful effects of social isolation and loneliness. A 2016 study led by Newcastle University epidemiologist Nicole Valtorta, PhD, for example, linked loneliness to a 30 percent increase in risk of stroke or the development of coronary heart disease (Heart , Vol. 102, No. 13). Valtorta notes that a lonely individual’s higher risk of ill health likely stems from several combined factors: behavioral, biological and psychological.

"Lacking encouragement from family or friends, those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits," Valtorta says. "In addition, loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body. Loneliness can also augment depression or anxiety."

Last year, researchers at the Florida State University College of Medicine also found that loneliness is associated with a 40 percent increase in a person’s risk of dementia (The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, online 2018). Led by Angelina Sutin, PhD, the study examined data on more than 12,000 U.S. adults ages 50 years and older. Participants rated their levels of loneliness and social isolation and completed a cognitive battery every two years for up to 10 years.

Among older adults in particular, loneliness is more likely to set in when an individual is dealing with functional limitations and has low family support, Hawkley says. Better self-rated health, more social interaction and less family strain reduce older adults’ feelings of loneliness, according to a study, led by Hawkley, examining data from more than 2,200 older adults (Research on Aging , Vol. 40, No. 4, 2018). "Even among those who started out lonely, those who were in better health and socialized with others more often had much better odds of subsequently recovering from their loneliness," she says.

A 2015 study led by Steven Cole, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, provides additional clues as to why loneliness can harm overall health (PNAS , Vol. 112, No. 49, 2015). He and his colleagues examined gene expressions in leukocytes, white blood cells that play key roles in the immune system’s response to infection. They found that the leukocytes of lonely participants—both humans and rhesus macaques—showed an increased expression of genes involved in inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral responses.

Loneliness, it seems, can lead to long-term "fight-or-flight" stress signaling, which negatively affects immune system functioning. Simply put, people who feel lonely have less immunity and more inflammation than people who don’t.

Combating loneliness

While the harmful effects of loneliness are well established in the research literature, finding solutions to curb chronic loneliness has proven more challenging, says Holt-Lunstad.

Developing effective interventions is not a simple task because there’s no single underlying cause of loneliness, she says. "Different people may be lonely for different reasons, and so a one-size-fits-all kind of intervention is not likely to work because you need something that is going to address the underlying cause." Rokach notes that efforts to minimize loneliness can start at home, with teaching children that aloneness does not mean loneliness. Also, he says, schools can help foster environments in which children look for, identify and intervene when a peer seems lonely or disconnected from others.

In terms of additional ways to address social isolation and feelings of loneliness, research led by Christopher Masi, MD, and a team of researchers at the University of Chicago suggests that interventions that focus inward and address the negative thoughts underlying loneliness in the first place seem to help combat loneliness more than those designed to improve social skills, enhance social support or increase opportunities for social interaction (Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2011). The meta-analysis reviewed 20 randomized trials of interventions to decrease loneliness in children, adolescents and adults and showed that addressing what the researchers termed maladaptive social cognition through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) worked best because it empowered patients to recognize and deal with their negative thoughts about self-worth and how others perceive them, says Hawkley, one of the study’s co-authors.

Still, some research has found that engaging older adults in community and social groups can lead to positive mental health effects and reduce feelings of loneliness. Last year, Julene Johnson, PhD, a University of California, San Francisco researcher on aging, examined how joining a choir might combat feelings of loneliness among older adults (The Journals of Gerontology: Series B , online 2018). Half of the study’s 12 senior centers were randomly selected for the choir program, which involved weekly 90-minute choir sessions, including informal public performances. The other half of the centers did not participate in choir sessions. After six months, the researchers found no significant differences between the two groups on tests of cognitive function, lower body strength and overall psychosocial health. But they did find significant improvements in two components of the psychosocial evaluation among choir participants: This group reported feeling less lonely and indicated they had more interest in life. Seniors in the non-choir group saw no change in their loneliness, and their interest in life declined slightly.

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have also found that older adults who take part in social groups such as book clubs or church groups have a lower risk of death (BMJ Open , Vol. 6, No. 2, 2016). Led by psychologist Niklas Steffens, PhD, the team tracked the health of 424 people for six years after they had retired and found that social group membership had a compounding effect on quality of life and risk of death. Compared with those still working, every group membership lost after retirement was associated with around a 10 percent drop in quality of life six years later. In addition, if participants belonged to two groups before retirement and kept these up over the following six years, their risk of death was 2 percent, rising to 5 percent if they gave up membership in one group and to 12 percent if they gave up membership in both.

"In this regard, practical interventions need to focus on helping retirees to maintain their sense of purpose and belonging by assisting them to connect to groups and communities that are meaningful to them," the authors say.

To that end, cohousing appears to be growing in popularity among young and old around the world as a way to improve social connections and decrease loneliness, among other benefits. Cohousing communities and mixed-age residences are intentionally built to bring older and younger generations together, either in whole neighborhoods within single-family homes or in larger apartment buildings, where they share dining, laundry and recreational spaces. Neighbors gather for parties, games, movies or other events, and the co­housing piece makes it easy to form clubs, organize child and elder care, and carpool. Hawkley and other psychologists argue that these living situations may also provide an antidote to loneliness, particularly among older adults. Although formal evaluations of their effectiveness in reducing loneliness remain scarce, cohousing communities in the United States now number 165 nationwide, according to the Cohousing Association, with another 140 in the planning stages.

"Older adults have become so marginalized and made to feel as though they are no longer productive members of society, which is lonely-making in and of itself," Hawkley says. "For society to be healthy, we have to find ways to include all segments of the population, and many of these intergenerational housing programs seem to be doing a lot in terms of dispelling myths about old age and helping older individuals feel like they are important and valued members of society again.

Why Can’t I Make Friends? What Is The Impact Of Having No Friends On Our Mental Health?

Mental Health

Last Update on January 17, 2022 : Published on January 14, 2022

Having friends in your life is very, very essential to lead a happy and healthy life. Your friends are like an extended family that we happen to choose for ourselves. Some of us, unfortunately, find it really difficult to make friends on our own.

“Why can’t I make any friends?’ Is this question troubling you too? If you are among those people who can’t make friends easily, you have come to the right place.

We will be discussing all about why you can’t make friends and how having no friends at all impacts your mental health and I will also be sharing some tips for you to make friends easily.

Shall we begin?

Why Do I Struggle To Make New Friends?

There can be various reasons behind you not being able to make any friends of your own. Tell me honestly, how many times have you felt like none of your friends understand you or you have no friends at all?

I think all of us might have been like this for a brief period of time at least once in our lives. Lack of friendship is a very, very common experience but most of us come out of it easily and quickly. Some of us remain stuck in this feeling for a very, very long time. This can be because;

1. Anxiety: some of us struggle with anxiety issues when it comes to meeting new people or initiating a conversation. These anxious thoughts may come from fear of rejection or being judged. People with social anxiety disorder also face difficulty in making friends.

2. High expectations: sometimes people take a lot of pressure to have a huge social group to maintain their social standard and popularity, in the pressure of increasing their circle they do not pay attention to building a relationship and end up having no meaningful friendships.

3. Avoidance approach: some people do not wish to take up the responsibility that comes with maintaining a meaningful friendship. So they choose to avoid being put in a spot where they have to bear the brunt of it all. Basically they avoid all opportunities they get to build a strong, healthy friendship.

4. Depression: depression is one of the leading causes of not being able to make friends. It is because nothing interests you anymore, you just feel like sitting in a dark corner where no one can see you. You build a strong wall around which no one can break unless you allow them to.

Does Having No Friends Impact Your Mental Health?

We are social beings and we need people around us. We need love, attention, affection, and attachment. Basically, we all strive to achieve a sense of belongingness. It makes us feel like one of them and when that is taken away you definitely will face some mental health related consequences.

Here’s how your mental health is affected because of your difficulty in making friends…

Loneliness: “why can’t i make friends?” Most lonely people ask themselves this question. Have you wondered why? It’s not because loneliness makes it difficult for you to make friends. Your inability to make friends results in the loneliness that you are suffering from right now.

Loneliness most certainly is bad for your mental health! Click here to read more about chronic loneliness.

Isolation: not being able to make new friends can make you feel isolated from the rest of the world. This social isolation can pull you in the swamp of depression for some other mental health related disorder.

Read more about the impact of social isolation on your mental health right here!

Lack of feeling of belongingness: like i said before, we are all social beings and belongingness is nor feel we all strive for at all times. Not being able to make any friends can lessen the feeling of belongingness. A decrease in this feeling can foster stress and anxiety in your life.

Finding it difficult to make friends and leaving you with no friends. Having no friends can impact your mental health negatively. Therefore, it’s very important to make friends. If you can’t make friends easily, worry no more, here’s what you can do…

Tips For Making New Friends Easily When You Can’t Make Friends

I know it’s not easy for everyone to make friends at the snap of a finger. Some people are shy, some fear initiating a conversation and some simply wait for friendships to happen on their own.

Since we all know not having friends can have an adverse effect on our mental health, it’s important for all of us to learn how to make new friends on your own…

Here’s what you can do;

1. Have empathy, be kind to people around you. Your kindness can be the reason people automatically will want to be your friend.

2. Start socializing. Go out and be around your kind of people. Do you like books? Go to a library and find people with similar interests. Do you like sports? Go to a soccer game!

3. Do not refuse an invite for a social gathering unless you really have something else (constructive) in mind.

4. Learn the art of small talk. Even though they seem meaningless, they act as great icebreakers.

5. Be open and friendly. The vibe you carry is attacked by others. So if you really are carrying a friendly vibe, people will automatically be drawn to you. Basically, don’t build a wall so strong that no one can even see past it.

6. Don’t judge people too soon. Just like you, someone else must also have a shell that you will need to break to see who they really are.

7. Be curious about knowing people. Who they are, what culture they belong to, try to look for things that interest you in other people.


I can understand the struggle you are going through. ‘Why can’t I make any friends?’ is the loudest question that keeps pumping through your heart all day. Be gentle to yourself, don’t be afraid to step out.

Do you fear people judging you? Does it even matter what others think about you when you don’t even know them?

‘I have no friends!’ if you sit with this though all day, you will not be hurting yourself. So stop right there! The struggle to make friends will only be over if you take that leap of faith and step out and say hello!

That’s all on “why I can’t make friends”! Comment down below how you deal with not being able to make any friends and did it affect your mental health at all?

Thanks for reading

Step out and make friends!

Few friends: problems of communication and health

Over the past 30 years, a lot of research has been carried out on the relationship of social contacts and human health. These studies help shed light on the factors that affect a person's life expectancy, health and quality of life. It may not sound surprising, but social models directly affect health, the occurrence and progression of diseases throughout a person's life.

How does health depend on the number of friends?

Summarizing many long-term studies among residents of the United States and other countries (more than 3 million people), psychologists have tried to establish a causal relationship between social relationships (“ few friends ”) and mortality, which depends on objectively measured biomarkers of physical health (C -reactive protein, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index). These measurements were made throughout life, with reference points: early life, adolescence and adolescence, mid and late adulthood). At the same time, the quality and quantity of a person's social ties were assessed.

A higher degree of social integration has been found to be associated with a lower risk of physiological dysfunction. Conversely, the lack of social connections ( few friends , loneliness) significantly increased the risk of such dysfunctions, both in youth and in old age.
For example, social isolation increases the risk of developing diseases by the same amount as physical inactivity during adolescence, and is a much larger risk factor than diabetes in old age.
These physiological consequences of social dysfunctions, when a person experiences a lack of communication and a lack of friends, occur exclusively in adolescence and adulthood and persist into old age.

Few friends: you are at risk

It was previously believed that the lack of social ties, the lack of friends increases the likelihood of death by at least 50%. When long-term studies have been studied and processed, the chances of mortality increase by 91% among socially isolated people. This effect is comparable in size to smoking and outperforms many other known risk factors for mortality, such as obesity or physical inactivity. Important questions remain: how do social relationships affect health, when do these effects occur, and how long do they last?

The main biological mechanism, which is sufficiently studied, and which triggers negative processes in the body, is a physiological reaction to stress, which, in turn, regulates several body systems. This effect accumulates in the body and leads to negative consequences. For example, laboratory studies in rats using experimental situations have shown that social isolation and hypervigilance increase the incidence of breast tumors and compromise the innate immune response to stress.

The negative health effects of loneliness and social isolation can be compared to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, or the effects of alcoholism. The obesity factor is not as dangerous as loneliness is life-threatening.

Social contacts and communication as prevention of diseases.

The better social connections, the lower the risk of long-term health problems, including stroke, heart disease and cancer, and the overall life expectancy increases. Good social connections protect adolescents from inflammation and obesity, no less than physical education. And for the elderly, social connections help to avoid hypertension and diabetes. It is these two categories - young and old - that are most vulnerable to negative consequences when there are few friends and few social ties. For middle age, the quality of relationships is much more important than their quantity.

Therefore, if you have few friends and feel isolated from “all these people around”, it's time to take care of yourself and seek professional psychological help. Friendship is the best medicine and disease prevention.

Recent scientific reports on this topic say that if no action is taken, including at the state level, then the scale of the problem will reach an epidemic by 2030.

Psychologist's advice

You should not look at communication problems solely as individual psychological difficulties that teenagers and older people often face. The question of lack of friends and social isolation is much more serious, has medical significance. Native people and the public must understand how important social ties are throughout life. Therefore, when your child complains “I don’t have many friends”, or you notice it yourself, try to support and help him, and not send him with the words: “Go play outside, look for friends!” Thus, you will probably protect the child from possible health problems and prolong his life.

The article was written by me based on the materials of the journal "NPAS" and "Perspectives on Psychological Science".

news, friends, psychology, advice, beauty and health

Belarus News / Beauty and health


20.12.2019 09:00

[email protected]

If a person has no friends, he experiences discomfort and moral suppression throughout his life.

At the same time, many people forget that the lack of friends is a real health problem.

Everyone needs a friend, even a bad one, but one is indispensable. And why, health problems may appear due to the lack of friends, everyone will find out in this article.

Senile dementia

When people hear about such a problem, they don't even pay attention to it.

In fact, there have been real studies that have shown that senile dementia is directly related to social circle.

Of course, if we are talking about a large and friendly family, then such a problem is reduced to a minimum.

However, if there are no friends and relatives, then the chance of senile dementia increases many times.


Friends are needed not only for communication, but also for healthy competition. For example, how can a girl calmly watch her skinny friend?

When she sees all her virtues, she immediately wants to become better. During friendship, there is always normal competition, which is beneficial.

And if a girl has no friends, she has no incentive to become better.

Heart attack

Scientists have long confirmed that if a person has a small social circle, the chances of a heart attack increase.

This is directly related to activity and life goals. And indeed, if you have friends, you always want to be with them, keep in touch and just be in a good mood.

In fact, every person is lazy, only society makes him move forward.


What benefits can uncertainty bring to the body and life in general?

There are several reasons why friendship allows each person to feel confident:

1) Friends will always be proud of certain successes.

For example, an apartment or a car was bought, they will support and express their congratulations in any case.

2) Will help to cope with various problems in life.

One of the friends will help you find money, the other will give you a lift to a certain place or provide other assistance.

3) They allow you to broaden your horizons.

And here it is important to remember again that most people are inherently lazy, only friends will begin to instill new habits and opinions. The main thing is to find a good social circle for yourself in order to receive only benefits.

Weak immunity

Surprisingly, the lack of live communication always affects the state of health.

Studies have shown that the lack of face-to-face communication always provokes social stress.

Its consequences are always extremely negative, as the immune system stops working in the required mode.

It is also often a physical condition that can be seriously aggravated by a number of circumstances.

Lack of interest in life

And here everyone should ask the question: what does he need from life? If there are no friends, most people have enough work, rest and some free time.

Only friends allow you to discover new and unusual activities.

One can offer to go to the quest room, the other organizes a trip to nature.

And most importantly, it is always interesting and useful to spend your own time with friends. Elena Gutyro

Photo: Pixabay

Author: Sergey Tumanov

  • friends
  • psychology
  • advice

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