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Possible effects loneliness can have on your health

Loneliness can make people feel miserable, and in some cases it can lead to serious problems, such as depression, alcoholism or even malnutrition.
3 min read
In this article
Depression  Alcoholism  Malnutrition



Depression can be triggered by a range of different events, including bereavement, health worries or a loss of independence. It can also be an underlying mental health condition that creates feelings of loneliness and isolation. 


Some of the symptoms of depression can include an overwhelming feeling of sadness, tiredness and lack of energy, lack of confidence, reduced ability to concentrate and sleep problems. 


Whatever the cause, remember that someone with depression can be helped with the right support. If you think you might be suffering from depression, make an appointment to discuss this with your GP (and if you suspect a friend or relative is depressed, encourage them to see their GP). Your GP may be able to suggest medication or counselling that can help. The charity Depression Alliance offers useful help and advice.


For more advice on dealing with the death of a family member, partner or friend, read our guide to coping with bereavement.


Some people may turn to alcohol to escape feelings of loneliness or to help ease the pain of a bereavement. If you notice that you seem to be drinking more than normal, it’s important to reduce your alcohol intake to moderate levels (or, if you suffer from other health issues, in line with recommendations from your GP).

Some people may find it helps not to keep alcohol in the house to avoid temptation. Or, if you enjoy a glass of wine with a meal, consider buying just a small bottle that contains only one or two glasses, rather than a regular-sized bottle containing six glasses – this will help you to avoid thinking, ‘I may as well finish the [full-sized] bottle.’  


If you feel that there is a problem and you need help, try talking to your GP – you certainly won’t be the first patient who has approached them on this subject, and they will be able to offer helpful advice and support.


If you’re concerned about a loved one’s drinking and want to raise the subject with them, you may find our page discussing how to deal with difficult conversations helpful.


There is also useful advice from the NHS, and Alcoholics Anonymous offers support over a helpline as well as face to face.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Aims to enable its members to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.


Call the national helpline:

0800 917 7650


Living alone can have an impact on your eating habits, especially if you have previously been used to cooking for two or more. Ill health or depression can lead to a loss of appetite or you may feel there’s little point in cooking a proper, nutritionally balanced meal for one. 

If you have reduced mobility or are unable to access transport, you might find it difficult to get to the shops and buy fresh food, leading you to start eating unhealthier meals. There may be a simple solution that will make all the difference. Try to plan your meals in advance, for example, and perhaps a local friend or relative could drive you to the supermarket when they’re doing their own food shopping. 

You could also look into online supermarket shopping. Alternatively, find out if your local authority or another organisation provides services such as 'meals on wheels' in your area. 

If you’re worried that the health of a friend or relative is suffering, you should encourage them to speak to their GP.

Further reading

Causes of loneliness

Older people can be particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation. We explain why you may be affected.

Taking exercise

Find out more about how to stay active and healthy in older age, with advice on doing gentle home exercise.

Last updated: 11 Mar 2019