Loneliness and social isolation of military veterans: systematic narrative review

Occup Med (Lond). 2018 Dec 26;68(9):600-609. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqy160.


Background: Loneliness and social isolation are being increasingly recognized as influencing both physical and mental health. There is limited research carried out with military veterans and, to date, there is no review of existing evidence.

Aims: To synthesize and examine the evidence exploring aspects of social isolation and loneliness of military veterans, using a systematic narrative review strategy.

Methods: A database search was carried out utilizing relevant search criterion. Seven databases were searched for publications with no date restrictions. Articles were included if they involved veterans and either social isolation or loneliness. The initial search returned 484 papers, after exclusions, removal of duplications, and a reference/citation search, 17 papers remained and were included in this review.

Results: The retrieved papers examined four areas of loneliness and social isolation: prevalence of loneliness in the veteran population, experiences related to military service as impacting loneliness or social isolation, the relationship between mental health and loneliness or social isolation, and interventions to combat loneliness and social isolation. Differences between the experiences of younger and older veterans were also highlighted.

Conclusions: It is evident that military veterans present unique experiences of loneliness and social isolation, especially older veterans. This requires specific attention outside of campaigns targeted at the non-military population.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Mental Health / standards
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Veterans / psychology*