I am preparing for a presentation I will be doing in Vancouver BC where we will take a deeper dive into understanding social capital. One issue we will explore is the comparison and contrasting of both social isolation and loneliness as constructs. They are not the same.
Social isolation is a state in which the individual lacks a sense of belonging socially, and lacks engagement with others, has a minimal number of social contacts and are deficient in fulfilling and quality relationships. Folks that are socially isolated are just that - disconnected from social contacts in their lives.
Loneliness is conceptually distinct from social isolation and can occur in the presence and absence of social isolation. Some of the early definitions of loneliness characterized it as a lack of social intimacy, or as a deficiency in social relationships Loneliness is often described as a subjective feeling of isolation, not belonging, or lacking of companionship.
Over the years sociologists have attempted to measure loneliness and although it is moving target, the social scientists at UCLA came up with a 20 item scale in 1968. Over the years they have continued to look at loneliness and most recently, in 2018, a study was done by Cigna Insurance using the UCLA scale. This study discovered that loneliness is on the rise in the US, statistically higher in 2018 than the last national sample done in the early 2000’s..
For my talk in Vancouver, I plan to use the scale to have the audience think more deeply about loneliness and come up with some strategies that could push back on social isolation. If your intrigued, google the UCLA Loneliness Scale and see where you fall.