What makes people lonely?

Loneliness has many different causes and affects people differently. Often people feel lonely because of their personal, situational circumstances. However, sometimes loneliness is a deeper, more constant feeling that comes from within.

Personal circumstances

Certain lifestyles and the stresses of daily life can make some people socially isolated and vulnerable to loneliness. There are many situations that might make you feel isolated or lonely.

For example, if you:

  • Lose a partner or someone close to you
  • Go through a relationship break-up
  • Are a single parent or are caring for someone else
  • Retire and lose the social contact you had at work
  • Are older and find it difficult to go out alone
  • Move to a new area without family, friends or community networks
  • Belong to a minority ethnic group and live in an area without others from a similar background
  • Are excluded from social activities due to your personal circumstances e.g. mobility problems, financial limitations
  • Experience discrimination and stigma due to your personal circumstances e.g. discrimination based on, gender, race or sexuality
  • Have experienced sexual or physical abuse and find it hard to form close relationships with other people as a result

Internal feelings of loneliness

Some people experience deep and constant feelings of loneliness that come from within and do not disappear, regardless of their social situation or how many friends they have.

There are many reasons why people experience this kind of loneliness. They may feel unable to like themselves or to be liked by others due to a lack of self-confidence. They may feel unlovable in relationships due to having been neglected as a child. They may consciously, or unconsciously, isolate themselves and avoid relationships due to a fear of rejection or abandonment.

‘Loneliness, for me, is a side effect of the barriers I’ve put up over the years to protect myself from the world, and the world from me’

If you experience this internal feeling of loneliness, you may persistently avoid being on your own and spend a lot of time socialising. Conversely, you may hide away on your own so you don’t have to face a world of people you feel unconnected to. You may also develop unhealthy habits, such as alcohol or drug consumption, to escape your feelings of loneliness or to cope with unavoidable social situations.

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