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A Portrait of social isolation and loneliness in Canada today

Interpersonal connection is at the heart of all human society. As a species, we thrive on relationships and social interaction, to the point that our health as individuals is negatively affected in the absence of these connections.

A wide-ranging new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, conducted in partnership with Cardus, explores the quality and quantity of human connection in the lives of Canadians today, revealing significant segments of society in need of the emotional, social and material benefits connectedness can bring.

Fully six-in-ten Canadians (62%) say they would like their friends and family to spend more time with them, while only 14 per cent of Canadians would describe the current state of their social lives as “very good.”

Further, a substantial one-third (33%) could not definitively say they have friends or family members they could count on to provide financial assistance in an emergency, and nearly one-in-five (18%) aren’t certain they’d have someone they could count on for emotional support during times of personal crisis.

This study sorts Canadians along two key dimensions: social isolation (or the number and frequency of interpersonal connections a person has) and loneliness (or their relative satisfaction with the quality of those connections).

From these and other findings, a detailed portrait of isolation and loneliness in Canada emerges, sorting Canadians into five groups: The Desolate (23%), the Lonely but not Isolated (10%), the Isolated but not Lonely (15%), the Moderately Connected (31%), and the Cherished (22%). 

More Key Findings:

  • The Cherished – those who suffer from neither social isolation nor loneliness – are most likely to be married, have children, and higher incomes.
  • While income level plays a significant role in the lives of all Canadians, the experiences of Canadians 55-and-older are particularly noteworthy. Within this group, those with incomes of less than $50,000 are twice as likely to be found in the Desolate group than those with incomes of $100,000 or more
  • Visible minorities, Indigenous Canadians, those with mobility challenges, and LGBTQ2 individuals are all noticeably more likely to deal with social isolation and loneliness than the general population average.
  • Faith-based activities, such as praying, church attendance and community outreach, are correlated with less isolation for individuals who partake in them
  • A strong majority of Canadians who use technology such as social media, texting, or video calling to remain connected with friends and family say that they appreciate the impact it has had on their ability to stay in touch

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