Social Isolation and Loneliness, Common COVID-19 Impacts, Are Linked to Depression

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

With statewide closures of schools and businesses, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing, much of the U.S. population has experienced some level of isolation since the beginning of the pandemic. As suggested in the aforementioned KFF report: “A broad body of research links social isolation and loneliness to both poor mental and physical health. Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has brought attention to the widespread experience of loneliness as a public health concern in itself, pointing to its association with reduced lifespan and greater risk of both mental and physical illnesses” (Panchal et al., 2020).

In one of their polls, KFF found nearly half (47%) of those sheltering-in-place reported negative mental health effects resulting from worry or stress related to coronavirus (Panchal et al., 2020):

The conditions created by a global pandemic have isolated many. Much of the elderly population is classified as high-risk and is forced to choose isolation over risking their lives. Additionally, many assisted living centers, nursing homes, and care facilities do not currently allow visitors in order to protect residents, further isolating the elderly population. Many families with children are experiencing isolation due to closed schools and childcare centers. Separately, many families impacted financially by the virus can no longer afford childcare. Families with children at home, those who live alone, and those who live separate from their communities who chose to follow the social distancing guidelines are placed in very isolating and lonely environments, which potentially puts them at greater risk for mental illness.


Panchal, N., Kamal, R., Orgera, K., Cox, C., Garfield, R., Hamel, L., Muñana, C., Chidambaram, P. (2020). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Retrieved from:
This blog post continues our series of excerpts from the HealthStream article, As COVID-19 Spreads, So Does Its Impact on Mental Health. Future excerpts will include:
  • Symptoms Pointing to a Mental Health Crisis
  • Underlying Issues Exacerbating Mental Health During Covid-19
  • Stressful Environments Could Lead to Increased Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence
  • Anxiety and Depression Related to Job Loss and Income Insecurity
  • Stress on Healthcare Workers May Lead to Burnout and Poor Mental Health in an Already Fragile Field
  • Anticipating a Surge of Mental Health Challenges alongside Pandemic Aftermath

Download the full article about the impact of Covid-19 on mental health here.

The Mental Health Imperative

As public understanding of mental health issues and disorders grows, the demand for behavioral health services will continue to increase. This growing market must prepare to serve the more than 40 million Americans (one in five) with a mental health condition—56 percent of them currently do not receive treatment. At HealthStream, we understand that behavioral health services and the required competencies may look a little different from other providers. That’s why some of the largest behavioral health organizations in the country have partnered with HealthStream to mitigate risk, improve staff competence, and increase overall efficiency. Explore our solutions for mental health staff and professionals.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in the article excerpted here was considered current at the time of its publishing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-evolving disaster due to new findings, data, and availability of resources. Please refer to the CDC website for the latest detailed information when you need it.