For as long as we have been around, human beings have existed in groups. We depend on each other for many key aspects of daily life. While this dependence was much more pronounced in our ancient ancestors whose literally survival depended on sticking close to their tribe, we still require social interaction to function properly.

Make no mistake; enjoying some alone time here and there is a healthy experience. It is when this aloneness becomes the rule and not the exception that problems can arise. In this article, we will discuss five ways in which loneliness has a direct affect on mental health.

Increased Stress

Feelings of loneliness and isolation negatively affect our mental health by increasing levels of stress. More specifically, loneliness ramps up the hormones in the body responsible for the “fight or flight” response, as described by a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When these stress hormones remain elevated for long periods of time, both mental and physical health are negatively affected. Chronic stress is associated with a slew of issues such as decreased mental function, systemic inflammation and many other serious health ailments.

Decreased Trust of Others

In a situation where someone is experiencing chronic loneliness, the most obvious strategy to combat this would seemingly involve increasing social interactions with friends and family. However, there is evidence to suggest that, as people spend more time in isolation, they actually begin to trust other people less.

This phenomenon can lead to a very unfortunate cycle that only perpetuates feelings of loneliness. As a person spends more time alone, they develop a growing mistrust of others which makes them much more unlikely to interact with people, thus continuing the cycle.


Loneliness and depression are well-known to go hand in hand with one another. According to The Awareness Centre, these two factors are somewhat of a “chicken or the egg” conundrum. While it is somewhat unclear if loneliness causing depression is more prevalent than people who feel depressed becoming more withdrawn, the negative affect on mental health is crystal clear.

In the case of depression, one of the most beneficial resources an individual can turn to is positive and uplifting interactions with friends and family. Depression combined with social isolation is a recipe for dire consequences.

Accelerated Cognitive Decline

People who experience isolation and loneliness on a consistent basis have a much higher rate of cognitive decline and mental health disorders than those who do not. In fact, the Journals of Gerontology found that people who reported chronic feelings of loneliness had a 40% increased chance of developing dementia.

There is ample research to describe just how detrimental isolation from other people can be to mental health and how effectively the brain functions. People have a literal need to interact with others not only for the sake of happiness and fulfillment but the actual lifespan of the brain itself.

Social Anxiety

When a person’s normal environment consists of social isolation and a lack of communication with others, the social cues and actions that are usually seamless begin to suffer. In order to function effectively in a group setting, these skills have to be put into action much like any other skill or action.

It is no surprise that chronically lonely people are much more prone to experience social anxiety when a situation arises that brings them into contact with a large group of people. Even the most withdrawn of people encounter certain situations where immersing themselves in a crowd or a social function is necessary. This can be an extremely overwhelming experience that can lead to undesirable interactions and actually reinforce the perceived need to withdraw from people even further.