COVID-19 pandemic hasn't increased loneliness in US, study finds

Concerns about loneliness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may be overblown, a new study has found. Florida State University researchers report that lockdown orders in the US haven't caused a noticeable increase in loneliness among Americans, with participants instead reporting that they feel more supported than before the pandemic started. These findings were despite stay-home orders.

Lockdowns and stay-home orders have been one of the harder aspects of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people finding themselves suddenly tasked with working from home while caring for their children and setting up remote working offices. Many people have reported an uptick in anxiety and depression related to the pandemic, but loneliness may not be a big factor in this.

The new study involved responses from more than 2,000 people across the US who were surveyed before and during the stay-home orders. Among at-risk groups, the researchers found that there was only a 'small increase' in loneliness and that it pertained to older adults during the height of the outbreak, though this group generally reported lesser loneliness levels overall compared to younger participants.

In cases where loneliness was higher during the onset of the pandemic, the study found that it mostly impacted people who suffer from at least one chronic condition, as well as people who live alone. Once social distancing measures were put in place and people began venturing back outside, however, the reports of loneliness didn't increase.

FSU College of Medicine assistant professor and study lead author Martina Luchetti explains:

There has been a lot of worry that loneliness would increase dramatically because of the social distancing guidelines and restrictions. Contrary to this fear, we found that overall loneliness did not increase. Instead, people felt more supported by others than before the pandemic. Even while physically isolated, the feeling of increased social support and of being in this together may help limit increases in loneliness.