The trajectory of loneliness in response to COVID-19

Am Psychol. 2020 Oct;75(7):897-908. doi: 10.1037/amp0000690. Epub 2020 Jun 22.


Social distancing and "stay-at-home" orders are essential to contain the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), but there is concern that these measures will increase feelings of loneliness, particularly in vulnerable groups. The present study examined change in loneliness in response to the social restriction measures taken to control the coronavirus spread. A nationwide sample of American adults (N = 1,545; 45% women; ages 18 to 98, M = 53.68, SD = 15.63) was assessed on three occasions: in late January/early February 2020 (before the outbreak), in late March (during the President's initial "15 Days to Slow the Spread" campaign), and in late April (during the "stay-at-home" policies of most states). Contrary to expectations, there were no significant mean-level changes in loneliness across the three assessments (d = .04, p > .05). In fact, respondents perceived increased support from others over the follow-up period (d = .19, p < .01). Older adults reported less loneliness overall compared to younger age groups but had an increase in loneliness during the acute phase of the outbreak (d = .14, p < .05). Their loneliness, however, leveled off after the issuance of stay-at-home orders. Individuals living alone and those with at least one chronic condition reported feeling lonelier at baseline but did not increase in loneliness during the implementation of social distancing measures. Despite some detrimental impact on vulnerable individuals, in the present sample, there was no large increase in loneliness but remarkable resilience in response to COVID-19. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control*
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Young Adult