Deployments and Permanent Change of Station (PCS) are an important part of military life. These transitions can be filled with new opportunities and experiences. However, the challenges of moving and separating from family and friends may contribute to loneliness and social isolation. In fact, loneliness can happen to anyone at any time and may negatively impact your health and well-being. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to connect with others and feel more engaged.
What Is Loneliness?
More than twenty percent of Americans report regularly feeling lonely or socially isolated. Loneliness is the feeling of being alone or separated from others. It happens when you feel your need for social connection is not being met.
Social isolation, on the other hand, is physical separation from others, which can occur when living alone or in a remote area. It is possible to experience loneliness while surrounded by others or be alone and not feel lonely.
Health Risks of Loneliness
Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation can negatively impact your health. They may put you at a higher risk for physical and psychological health concerns, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Impaired cognitive function
- Weakened immune system
Since there is no single root cause of loneliness, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are steps you can take to tackle feelings of loneliness and help you connect more with others in your community.
8 Tips to Fight Loneliness
Shift Focus to Others
Find a way to serve others, which can boost your mood and provide a sense of purpose. Your installation's Military and Family Support Center can help you find local volunteer opportunities on and off base.
Pursue a Hobby or Interest
Get out of the house and get involved in a new hobby or take an online class to learn a new skill. Check out your Morale, Welfare and Recreation program to find fun activities in your area and meet new people.
Spend Time Outdoors
Go on a walk to a nearby park or enjoy time out on your patio or deck if you have one. If you are unable to make it outside, bring the outdoors in by opening up your windows to let in the fresh air and natural sounds. Engaging with nature may boost your mood and help your psychological wellbeing.
Bond with Your Unit
Work on building stronger cohesion in your unit. Start by incorporating more effective speaking and listening skills into your interactions, like asking open-ended questions and making eye contact during conversation. Planning or attending unit activities may also help you bond with your unit.
Nurture Your Connections
Focus on improving and strengthening your current relationships. Stay in touch with friends and family regularly, especially if you are in an isolated area. Connect through social media, video chat or by phone.
Branch Out Socially
Avoid relying on only your unit for socializing and friendships. Try building relationships with a variety of groups, including neighbors, coworkers, friends and family.
Embrace Alone Time
Spend some time enjoying your own company. Start by spending time alone doing an activity you love. Try out an activity that promotes self-reflection like hiking, biking, journal writing, meditation or yoga.
Talk to a Professional
Reach out to a health care professional if you need additional support or show signs of depression. For immediate help, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 or the Disaster Distress Hotline at 800-985-5990. Call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat for help accessing care.
Deshpande, Samir. (2020, April 29). Alone, Together: Coping with Isolation and COVID-19.
Global Council on Brain Health (2017). The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health. [PDF 268KB]
Human Performance Resources by CHAMP. (2017, September12). Identifying and Combating Loneliness.
Kaiser Family Foundation. (2018, August 30). Loneliness and Social Isolation in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan: An International Survey.
National Institute on Aging. (2019, April 23). Social Isolation, Loneliness in Older People Pose Health Risks.
Novotneny, Amy. (2019, May). The Risks of Social Isolation. Monitor on Psychology, 50(5).
Vedantam, Shankar. (Host). (2020, April 20). A Social Prescription: Why Human Connection Is Crucial to Our Health [Audio podcast episode]. In Hidden Brain. NPR.