social isolation vs loneliness

Social Isolation vs Loneliness: An Infographic Explainer

Social isolation and loneliness appear a lot in the news these days. Following the past two years of quarantines and social distancing, these twin concerns are now a major priority for governments, mental health providers, and others in a number of sectors. However, there are many differences between social isolation vs loneliness, including in the ways you measure and screen for them, and the way you intervene to address them.

The biggest core difference between social isolation vs loneliness is whether they are objective or subjective in nature. Social isolation, an objective measure, is defined as a lack of connectedness to other people. This means you can measure it directly yourself by mapping out an individual’s social network. If they have a large number of connections, they are probably not isolated – if they have few connections, they may be isolated. This makes it somewhat easier to measure in practice.

Loneliness is a subjective condition, which means it is a state of mind relative to an individual’s experiences, goals, and expectations. An individual could have many strong connections, but still feel lonely because they do not have as many friends as they think they should. Subjective measures are harder to measure as you must rely on an individual’s honest, unbiased responses to your questions – which is difficult in practice. For example, many people do not feel comfortable sharing that they are lonely, because there is stigma attached to the issue.

Here is a full infographic overview of the main differences between social isolation vs loneliness. 

social isolation vs loneliness

If you are trying to decide whether to measure social isolation vs loneliness, consider your goals. In many cases you may wish to measure both measures to paint a complete picture of a population’s social connectedness. PARTNERme screenings allow you to map an individual’s social network and screen them for loneliness. It then combines both measures, along with several other key metrics, to calculate an individual social connectedness level. Click here to learn more about PARTNERme. 

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