Position Statement 2
Social isolation, loneliness, and social negativity are distinct and each can compromise wellbeing
Lacking social connection (social disconnection) may result from objective isolation (social isolation), subjective isolation (loneliness), or poor quality social interactions (social negativity).
Being socially isolated means having objectively few social relationships or roles and infrequent social contact. Conversely, loneliness is a subjective unpleasant or distressing feeling of a lack of connection to other people, along with a desire for more, or more satisfying, social relationships.
Social negativity is having poor quality interactions often resulting from conflict or strain. These forms of social disconnection are part of our normal human experience. However, when experienced persistently, they are associated with poorer social, health, and wellbeing outcomes.
Importantly, social isolation and loneliness are different concepts. Social isolation and loneliness can co-occur but some individuals may experience loneliness without social isolation, and others may experience social isolation without loneliness. Therefore, meaningful distinctions between these experiences should be made so that effective interventions can be identified and deployed. Furthermore, interventions should consider social negativity given increasing contact could potentially increase conflict and poorer outcomes.
2.1 Awareness campaigns need to provide clear and concise information about (i) social connection and conversely forms of social disconnection including social isolation, loneliness, and social negativity; (ii) how they differ from each other; and (iii) their consequences across many aspects of life, in order to increase public understanding of the benefits of human connection.
2.2 Researchers need to examine components of social disconnection (loneliness, social isolation, social negativity) concurrently in order to determine their independent influence on health, work and educational outcomes.
2.3 Interventions need to consider social negativity given increasing contact could potentially increase conflict and poorer outcomes.
2.4 Increased investment is needed for longitudinal research examining the impact of loneliness, social isolation, and social negativity on health, work, educational attainment and wider community participation.
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