Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Never before have we experienced social isolation on a massive scale as we have during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Lonely old man staring out of a window

A new paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explores the wide-ranging, negative consequences that social isolation has on our psychological well-being and physical health, including decreased life span. The paper was co-authored by Associate Professor Danilo Bzdok (McGill University and Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute) and Emeritus Professor Robin Dunbar (Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford).

Through examining a broad range of studies, a full picture emerged of the severe impact that loneliness can have, namely that:

  • having strong interpersonal relationships is critical for survival across the entire lifespan;
  • social isolation is a significant predictor of the risk of death;
  • insufficient social stimulation affects reasoning and memory performances, hormone homeostasis, brain grey/white-matter, connectivity and function, as well as resilience to physical and mental disease;
  • feelings of loneliness can spread through a social network, causing negatively skewed social perception, escalating morbidity and mortality, and, in older people, precipitating the onset of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Read more on the University of Oxford website

Similar stories

COVID-19 increased public trust in science, new survey shows

A survey of over 2000 British adults has found that public trust in science, particularly genetics, increased significantly during the pandemic. However, those with extremely negative attitudes towards science tend to have high self-belief in their own understanding despite low textbook knowledge.

Gero Miesenböck awarded 2023 Japan Prize

Congratulations to Professor Gero Miesenböck, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG), who has been awarded the 2023 Japan Prize in the field of Life Sciences, together with Professor Karl Deisseroth, for pioneering work in the field of optogenetics.

Major funding for Oxford will help find new cancer treatments

Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research are investing over £3 million across the next five years into The University of Oxford’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC). The investment will enable Oxford to expand its portfolio of precision prevention and early detection cancer trials.

Daniel Freeman to join Department of Experimental Psychology as Professor of Psychology

The Department of Experimental Psychology are delighted to announce that Daniel Freeman has been appointed as their new Professor of Psychology, joining from the Department of Psychiatry.

New study reveals role of lymphatic system in bone healing

It was previously assumed that bones lacked lymphatic vessels, but new research from the MRC Human Immunology Unit at Oxford's MRC Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine not only locates them within bone tissue, but demonstrates their role in bone and blood cell regeneration and reveals changes associated with aging.

Vaccination shown to protect against pregnancy complications from COVID-19 Omicron variant

The global network led by the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute (OMPHI) at the University of Oxford has today published, in The Lancet, the results of the ‘2022 INTERCOVID Study’ conducted in 41 hospitals across 18 countries.