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

Introduction

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

  • Some of the key findings from the survey across all three countries are as follows.
  • 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.
  • 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.