Characters of various shapes and colors hanging out, some happy, some sad. Text: Loneliness comes in many shapes and sizes.

Loneliness

Loneliness is the feeling that we are not cared for, valued or seen by those around us. More than half of New Yorkers report feeling lonely at least some of the time.

We all feel this way at times, but persistent loneliness can have long-term and significant effects on your physical, emotional and mental health.

It is important for us to name and talk about loneliness so that we can identify people who are lonely and provide them with the support that they need to feel more connected. It is not always easy to tell if someone is lonely. Some people may not want to admit that they are lonely or ask for help. They can seem happy while they are hurting on the inside.

You can be surrounded by friends and family and still feel lonely. Alternatively, some people may be socially isolated but are comfortable with that lifestyle and do not feel chronic loneliness.

Health Issues

Loneliness can affect your sleep, your overall well-being and your ability to take care of yourself. It may lead to depression, anxiety and suicide.

There is evidence loneliness can increase your risk of dementia, stroke and premature death. It may be as dangerous to our health as smoking and lack of physical activity.

Loneliness can affect your daily routine in various ways, causing you to:

  • Withdraw from social life
  • Miss appointments and ignore emails or phone calls
  • Have worse memory and reduced energy
  • Increase your substance use

Causes

You may feel lonely for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Caring for a new child
  • A hospitalization or other medical crisis
  • Eviction from your home
  • Being separated from family

You may have a high risk for loneliness if you:

  • Have a chronic disease or disability
  • Have communication barriers (speak a different language than most people around them, hearing loss)
  • Have limited access to the internet
  • Are experiencing burnout or stress at work
  • Care for children, older adults or the disabled (new parents can be especially vulnerable)
  • Experience economic insecurity
  • Are a survivor of intimate partner violence
  • Experience bias

How to Help

All of us have an opportunity to make a connection and a difference in the lives of our friends, families, and neighbors. Check in, listen and stay in touch with the people who matter in your life.

To help yourself or the people around you from feeling lonely, try these simple tips:

Connect with Your Neighbors
Try a small act of kindness to improve the life of a person near you, such as picking up groceries for an older or homebound neighbor. Here are some other tips to help you connect:

  • Drop off a note or care package for a neighbor who is isolated.
  • Be friendly to neighbors you have not met yet.
  • Create a library in your building lobby with free books.

Find Local Resources and Social Supports
There are resources online to help you find social support and services near you, including:

Give Back to Your Community
Volunteering can help you feel less isolated and more connected to your community. To find volunteer opportunities in your area, visit NYC Service.

Contact NYC Well
You can talk to behavioral health professionals, confidential crisis counseling, mental health and substance use support, information and referrals.

NYC Well is a toll-free help line, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by phone, text and online chat.

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