Social Isolation, Loneliness, And Violence Exposure In Urban Adults

Health Aff (Millwood). 2019 Oct;38(10):1670-1678. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00563.


Social isolation is a key predictor of mortality in the US and may be heightened in communities affected by violence. Qualitative studies have documented that people living in high-crime neighborhoods often report being confined to their homes because of safety concerns. However, few quantitative studies have empirically assessed relationships between violence exposure and social isolation. In 2018 we conducted hour-long, in-person surveys with 504 adults in Chicago, Illinois. Prior exposure to community violence was associated with a 3.3-point reduction (on a 100-point scale) in the frequency of interaction with network confidantes, a 7.3-point reduction in perceived social support from friends, and a 7.8-point increase in loneliness. At a time when public health and policy leaders are calling for solutions to the "epidemic of loneliness," identifying populations at higher risk because of violence could help target interventions and ensure equitable access to social and medical support.

Keywords: Community health centers; Health policy; Loneliness; Older adults; PTSD; Post traumatic stress disorder; Public health; Social isolation; Violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chicago
  • Exposure to Violence* / ethnology
  • Exposure to Violence* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Isolation*
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*