And why some places are lonelier than others.
Ever since the Covid-19 lockdowns set a laser focus on the issue, loneliness has been a hot-button topic in America — and it’s not going away any time soon.
According to a 2021 Harvard survey, 36 percent of Americans feel “serious loneliness.” It’s particularly prevalent in young people: 61 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 25 reported feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” in the four weeks prior to the survey. The second most lonely group is moms with young kids; 51 percent of that population reported those same sentiments.
They aren’t the only ones suffering. Another report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that people who are 50 years or older tend to be more vulnerable to risk factors that commonly lead to loneliness, including chronic illness, living alone, the loss of family or friends, or sensory impairments like hearing loss.
While it’s clear that loneliness is a widespread issue, there are some pretty major discrepancies across the U.S., with some states experiencing far higher rates of loneliness than others.
AgingInPlace tracked loneliness across the nation, looking at influences from the number of single-person households to the number of people searching for friendship apps to come up with loneliness scores out of 10 for each state. We’ve broken down those findings, below.
So, what do the loneliest states in the U.S. have in common?
Maine, Florida, and Ohio were the loneliest states, scoring 7.6/10, 7/10, and 6.68/10, respectively. Maine has a modest population of just 1.3 million, and almost a third of those residents live in single-person households, so it’s no wonder that the risk of loneliness appears high. These findings are certainly borne out by the Maine-based health system Northern Light Health, which says that the state is undergoing a “loneliness health crisis.”
To add fuel to the fire, Maine has the highest rate of divorce in the country at 14 percent. Divorce can have ripple effects beyond losing a partner, causing ruptures to other friendships and even family relationships, meaning divorcees can have fewer people on hand to buffer the isolating effects of singledom.
Florida is renowned as a popular destination for retirees looking to relocate, but it appears that its aging population may also play into its high loneliness score. Seven percent of Floridians have been widowed and 13 percent have gone through a divorce. Even though being widowed doesn’t necessarily cause the same schisms as divorce, it can leave an emotional hole that may feel impossible to fill — particularly after a relationship that’s lasted the majority of a person’s life. The depressive effects of grief can make it difficult to form new relationships or even reach out to old friends, making it a powerful predictor of loneliness.
According to AgingInPlace, Ohioans are “craving companionship,” with over three million searches for dating apps in 2021. More than 31 percent of the population lives alone, and while social isolation isn’t a predictor of loneliness, combining that fact with the searches for dating apps, it’s safe to assume people in Ohio are looking for a romantic roommate.
Other states that scored highly in particular areas include Colorado, which came top of the class in searches for friendship apps. The state saw 1,023 searches for friendship apps per 10,000 — which makes sense considering its long life expectancy of 80.21 years. With time to kill and schedules to fill, Coloradians are eager to expand their social circles.
West Virginia had the highest proportion of people who are widowed in the population, with 7.8 percent, so it’s little surprise that it ranked 16th overall for loneliness. Like Arkansas, which tied with Alabama for the second-highest rate of people who are widowed, West Virginia has a large senior population, with 16 percent at 65 or over.
Curious as to how your state measures up overall? Read the full list of the loneliest and least-lonely states, below.
The Loneliest States in America
- New Mexico
- Oregon (tied)
- Rhode Island (tied)
- District of Columbia
- Missouri (tied)
- Montana (tied)
- Wisconsin (tied)
- West Virginia (tied)
- Kentucky (tied)
- Arkansas (tied)
- Tennessee (tied)
- New York (tied)
- Colorado (tied)
- North Carolina (tied)
- South Carolina (tied)
- Alabama (tied)
The Least Lonely States in America
- Iowa (tied)
- Mississippi (tied)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- Maryland (tied)
- Kansas (tied)
- South Dakota