The Ad Council has announced new research findings regarding the current state of loneliness around the world.  The study revealed that nearly one in five (19%) report that they always or often feel alone.  Over a quarter (27%) report regularly feeling physically or socially isolated (whether by choice or not) on a regular basis. In addition, while interventions previously implemented on a broader scale have either focused on older adults or the general population, the study revealed that younger people are more likely to feel alone and experience contributing factors of loneliness. Of those who regularly feel alone, 41% are adults 18-34 while 19% are adults 55 and older.
Research has shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, have better cognitive function, have less depression and live longer. Conversely, a lack of deeper relationships may manifest in mental health issues like anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder, chronic stress, insomnia and cognitive decline later in life.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected happiness, it has not caused a significant increase in loneliness. However, those at risk of loneliness—experiencing at least one factor of loneliness on a regular basis (feeling alone and/or physical or social isolation)–increased from 36% to 44%. Before the pandemic, over half of respondents (57%) said they feel happy on a regular basis. During the pandemic, however, 42% reported regularly feeling happy.
“Our research emphasized that loneliness is a truly global public health issue, but it also shed light on the complexity of the issue and how loneliness has evolved over time,” said Derrick Feldmann, Lead Researcher and Managing Director of Ad Council Edge. “Understanding who is impacted by loneliness, why those feelings have developed and what types of tools people use to feel less alone–and how all of those factors vary from country to country–will help researchers and clinicians develop interventions to prevent those who are at risk for loneliness from becoming lonely.”
Additional findings from the study include topics such as:
- Tools to improve feelings of loneliness: To cope with loneliness or isolation, the study found that people are performing solo activities rather than group activities or clinical interventions. About two-thirds of people gravitate towards activities by oneself, such as watching TV, listening to music or napping, while about half reach out to others via technology, followed by connecting in-person. While previous public health interventions have focused on group social engagements to improve loneliness, the study found that such activities did not improve feelings of loneliness.
- The desire for deeper relationships: When it comes to relationships, more than a third (36%) of all respondents wish they had deeper relationships with more people. For those who regularly experience at least one factor of loneliness, this number jumps to nearly half (47%).
- The role of close proximity and human touch: For those who do have strong relationships, the global study found that close proximity to others and human touch both play a role in coping with loneliness and feelings of isolation. For both close proximity and human touch, one’s spouse or significant other, children and friends have the greatest impact on improving their loneliness, followed by family members, including siblings and parents. This finding illustrates that human touch is another tool (along with phone, texting and in-person communication) to support and maintain close connections.
The full research report, including additional findings and key takeaways, can be found at www.AdCouncil.org/Loneliness.
 The quantitative study was comprised of a 15-minute online survey (with supplemental phone interviews) conducted from July 29 – August 18, 2020 among 6,413 adults ages 18+ living in the United States, England, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and China.
 In the study, loneliness/feeling alone was defined as occurring when there is a difference between the trusted, quality relationships you have and those you want.