Loneliness is a common human experience, and recent studies show that feelings of loneliness may be linked to substance abuse.
Understanding the relationship between the two can help therapists and other medical professionals provide their clients with the most effective tools for overcoming addiction.
This includes therapy that improves social and emotional health along with mental health to make long-term sobriety more achievable.
Addiction And Different Types Of Loneliness
Researchers used the Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults (SELSA) in a recent study providing a multidimensional look into loneliness and addiction.
SELSA accounts for the idea that social loneliness is different from emotional loneliness, and the latter has two main branches: romantic and family emotional loneliness.
The study involved 228 participants and found that, for both men and women, each type of loneliness contributed similarly to a significant increase in their likelihood of having a drug or alcohol addiction.
Although more research is needed in the area of substance abuse and loneliness to understand the link, data reports also indicate a tie between the two.
Substance Abuse, Loneliness, And Older Adults
Feelings of loneliness likely increased during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when a lot of people, especially elderly Americans, spent more time alone.
This could have contributed to the increase in fatal overdoses that all demographics in America experienced at this time, particularly older adults.
A Spike In Overdose Deaths During COVID-19 Lockdowns
In just one year, from 2019 to 2020, the number of deaths from opioid use rose by 53% in Americans ages 65 or older, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
This same age group also experienced more than an 18% increase in deaths from alcohol abuse.
Every age group saw an increase in overdose deaths during this time, but none as pronounced as this demographic.
Loneliness Increases With Age
Older adults are more likely than younger people to experience loneliness due to several factors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
These factors include:
- living alone
- having a chronic illness
- losing friends or family
- experiencing hearing loss
These factors contribute to a wide range of health risks, such as developing dementia and dying prematurely from all causes.
Understanding this can help healthcare providers address all the needs of their elderly patients.
Loneliness And Mental Health
Along with substance use disorders, other mental health issues also have a tie to loneliness.
Higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide have been found among people experiencing loneliness.
It is not uncommon for people with depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health disorders to develop a drug or alcohol addiction. This is called co-occurring disorders.
Dual diagnosis treatment can help these people improve their overall mental health while healing from substance abuse. Treating both conditions tends to bring the best results.
Other At-Risk Groups
Like elderly people, but not necessarily for the same reasons, immigrants and people in the LGBTQ+ community have an increased risk of being lonely, according to the CDC.
Additionally, gay and bisexual men experience mental health issues at a greater rate than men who don’t identify as LGBTQ+.
Being aware of these increased health risks when working with people in these communities can help ensure that medical professionals provide the best care.
Find Help For Addiction Today
If you or a loved one is experiencing a substance use disorder, visit AddictionResource.net or call us today to learn about treatment options.
Published on February 22, 2023
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- International Journal of High Risk Behaviors & Addiction
- National Center for Health Statistics
- National Center for Health Statistics