5 Ways We Try to Fight Loneliness

Did you know that loneliness is considered a major health issue? It’s true.

There are now calls to treat it as seriously as smoking and obesity because there is evidence to suggest a link between loneliness and an early death.

Due to the fact that we are, by nature, social animals, prolonged feelings of loneliness can be devastating to our health.

As such we have come up with several ways to reduce feelings of isolation, all of which have positive and negative aspects. Here are five major ways in which we may try to stave off loneliness.



1) Television

Recent studies have built on a body of existing research that says television really can help us feel less lonely.

Psychologists, dubbing the phenomena as “social surrogacy,” have observed that people are not only more likely to watch their favorite TV shows when they feel lonely, but actually will use this as a means to make themselves feel better.

In a recent test, subjects were asked to recall a fight they had with a loved one, in effect to create feelings of  low self-esteem and isolation. They were then given a choice of whether to write about a TV show they loved or one they hated.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, subjects were more likely to write about the shows they enjoyed.

They were also more likely to report purposefully seeking out enjoyment from watching their favorite program after experiencing a (simulated or real) fight.

The TV shows acted in a way to buffer their emotional hurt and allow them a feeling of social belonging.

Moreover, separate studies have suggested that for those people who find social interaction difficult, television programs can in fact help to facilitate better understanding of social cues, like facial expressions and the linguistic graces more socially aware people would take for granted.

There’s a downside of course. There are some startling statistics on the casual links between television watching and poor overall health. More than that though, people who use television as a means of social surrogacy may become reliant and miss out on fostering better relationships with those around them.


First image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to justcrono. Second image: Kansir.

Social Media & Loneliness

2) The Internet & Social Media

It seems hardly a week goes by without a scare story in the press on how the Internet and social media is banishing face-to-face interaction. We are meant to assume that’s a negative thing. Actually, it might not be.

Businesses have reported advantages to cutting out the “messy” sides of in-person interaction, cutting misunderstandings that can happen when face-to-face.

Moreover, college students and teenagers surveyed for a number of recent studies have said that social media allows them a greater reach in their social circles, providing them with ways to stay connected even over long distances.

Negatives do exist, however.

Though studies have shown some people do turn to it for comfort, social media isn’t a cure for loneliness.

There’s also the phenomena of “Facebook depression.” The science of it is still disputed, but certainly some young people have experienced that not feeling the love on social media sites can be emotionally distressing. We also know of the distinct isolation effect of online bullying.

One thing to have emerged from the research into social media and its impact on our lives seems to be it is the quality of our interactions, and not how many “friends” we have, that determines whether we are enriched by this relatively new form of communication.


Image credit: ivanpw.

Loneliness and Religion

3) Religion

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that religion has a particular appeal to the lonely.

There is even some evidence to suggest a correlation between religion and dealing with feelings of loneliness. While some may find the idea of an omnipresent, all-knowing being constantly shadowing you unsettling, it is easy to understand why the lonely may be more likely to seek out supernatural comfort to assuage their isolation.

The main draw of religion for the lonely may not in fact be the promise of a loving god or an afterlife at all, however.

Rather, religion may have social benefits: with choosing a religion often comes a community that is willing to accept those who share their beliefs. Indeed, religion’s power to form what are essentially tribes may be one of the reasons why it has survived evolutionary whittling, though this is one of several theories.

However, religion can be used to isolate others and make them feel lonely. So-called “spiritual warfare” has been used to disfranchise several groups of people, a couple of recent examples being people of color and the LGBT community.


Image credit: aronki.

Pets and Loneliness

4) Pets

Lonely people may use their relationships with their pets to replace the human interaction they are lacking.

There’s one area in particular where we know pets can be helpful in dealing with loneliness.

For senior citizens, having a four-legged friend can help to fend of feelings of isolation. It’s not a cure-all by any means, but there is evidence to show that a pet can be a delightful companion when those in the elder community are no longer able to enjoy the social activities they once relied on. There are also a number of other health benefits associated with pet ownership.

However, it can be that we also develop unhealthy attachments to our pets, especially if we’re lonely.

Involving ourselves with our pets to the exclusion of human relationships can lead to deeper feelings of loneliness. The temptation to do this can actually be stronger after a bereavement.


Image credit: jpctalbot.

Loneliness Food

5) Food

Anyone who loves food won’t be surprised by studies that have shown just thinking about comfort food can decrease our feelings of loneliness.

However, it has been established that one of the many causes of obesity may in fact be comfort eating in order to medicate ourselves against the negative feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

This is especially true of childhood obesity.

The dangers of a negative cycle — guilt over binge eating, isolation and then more binge eating to try and comfort ourselves — is very real.

Food literacy, that is to say knowing the content of our food, portion sizes and how often we should be eating and being able to discern when a healthy relationship with food turns bad, are all ways that we can enjoy our food and even indulge in that little bit of comfort without falling into negative patterns.

Clearly food, just like many of the above loneliness salves, should be used to add enjoyment  to our lives and not in the long-term to replace the relationships we lack.


Related Reading:

5 Reasons Online Colleges Could Replace Brick and Mortar Ones

Twitter, the Self-Appointed Defender of Our Free Speech

20% of Kids Think Books Are “Embarrassing”


Image credit: John Loo.

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Debbie R.
Debbie R.2 years ago

May I suggest VOLUNTEER. There are too many organizations that need help. This is a WIN WIN. You get fulfillment and a need gets met. You may also connect with someone who has a similar interest/passion. We expereince things for a reason. To encourage and uplift another. Give back. Give someone else some hope. HOPE is a huge gift.

Debbie R.
Debbie R.2 years ago

I would like to add another- volunteer.. giving back always helps me feel fulfilled. There are too many organizations that need help. This is a WIN WIN. You give.. a need gets met... you encourage another and you may make friend a connection with folks who have the same passion/ interest as you. You have gone through the experiences painful and victorious for a reason. You can use it to give another hope. HOPE is a huge gift to give. Volunteer.. give back...

Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D.2 years ago

To Terrance N - you're right in that being religious does not necessarily mean you are spiritual

To Diana C - get over yourself. Get your computer fixed if it goes so slow. It took but a few seconds to page thru this article on my computer.

To Adam C - yes, I agree, they should have included groups. You can see the change in many people after joining a group with the same interests as themselves. I would liken it to watching a flower begin to bloom.

Television has its place in our lives, as do computers and the internet. As in anything, if overused then it can make some personality problems even worse. The internet can isolate some people even more than they already are. It gives these people an excuse not to leave their homes. Even interacting with store clerks can be a good thing socially for introverts.

This article has some good points, but have some things I may not agree with - for example the internet, while a good thing for most, may not always be a good thing for all. I am sure the same thing was said about television when it first became popular.

Anant Goel
Anant Goel2 years ago

There is one more way to fight loneliness. And that’s Artificial Intelligence based computer games for fun and cognitive development. These games are specifically designed for play against the computer or another human being.
Hare’s an example…

RKNet Studios Announced Cognitions Bridge Games for Senior Adults; to Fight Loneliness and Cognitive Decline, the Known Risk Factors in Early Death


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you for sharing :)

Adam C.
Adam Costello3 years ago

I was right with this article until it mentioned religion. If it had said "join an institution" then sure as that covers not only joining a church or other spiritual group but also includes chess clubs, gardening clubs, book clubs etc etc. Any one of these are legitimate ways of fighting loneliness. The line "There is even some evidence to suggest a correlation between religion and dealing with feelings of loneliness. " is a spurious argument as that argument can be applied to any social organization as being part of any social group is going to impact your loneliness.

Diana C.
Diana C.3 years ago

First of all, why do they list the points on different screens. It is so hard to get from one to the next since it takes forever. What a turn off. I did not get beyond one. Second, what if one chooses to keep to oneself because people totally get on their nerves. I can't stand people.

first of all. I hate

Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago


Debbie L.
Debbie Lim3 years ago


Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence3 years ago

Omly those who have suffered loneliness know about it - no one else does