Loneliness and Social Isolation in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan: An International Survey

In recent years, the issue of social isolation and loneliness has garnered increased attention from researchers, policymakers, and the public as societies age, the use of technology increases, and concerns about the impact of loneliness on health grow. To understand more about how people view the issue of loneliness and social isolation, the Kaiser Family Foundation, in partnership with The Economist, conducted a cross-country survey of adults in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. The survey included additional interviews with individuals who report always or often feeling lonely, left out, isolated or that they lack companionship to better understand the personal characteristics and life circumstances associated with these feelings, the reported causes of loneliness, and how people are coping.

Key Findings:

  • More than two in ten report loneliness or social isolation in the U.K. and the U.S., double the share in Japan.
  • Loneliness appears to occur in parallel with reports of real-life problems and circumstances. Across the three countries, people reporting loneliness are more likely to report being down and out physically, mentally, and financially
  • Those reporting loneliness appear to lack meaningful connections with others.
  • Among the public at large, across countries, many have heard of the issue but views vary on the reasons for loneliness and who is responsible for helping to reduce it.
  • Some are critical of the role technology plays in loneliness and isolation, but some see social media as an opportunity for connection.
  • Despite fewer people in Japan reporting loneliness, reports of the severity of the experience are worse.