August 25, 2020

New research brief: Social isolation and loneliness during COVID-19

Comparing pre- and post- ‘stay-at-home’ orders

First page of America at a glance: social isolation and loneliness during the first wave of COVID-19

Social isolation and loneliness are a public health concern because they are associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes and mortality. Social isolation is defined as have few, or no, social connections, and not participating in activities with others. Loneliness is defined as feeling unsatisfied about the amount of social engagement in one’s life.

Before the current pandemic, people with disabilities reported significantly higher rates of social isolation and loneliness than those without disabilities. Inaccessible events and buildings, limited accessible public transportation, social stigma, and lower rates of employment all contribute to these high rates. When restrictions are put in place to help protect people from COVID-19, what happens to these rates?

To learn more about how COVID-19 and public health responses such as stay-at-home orders may contribute to feelings of social isolation and loneliness among people with disabilities, RTC:Rural researchers compared data from two cross-sectional samples collected before and after the first wave of “stay-at-home” orders.

Summary findings:

• Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with poor mental and physical health.
• Opportunities for in-person social engagement have become more limited during the COVID-19 pandemic due to social distancing and stay-at-home mandates.
• We compared two groups who provided data at different points of time – one pre-COVID and another post-COVID. Post-COVID rural and urban samples reported significantly more interactions with family and close friends.
• Post-COVID urban respondents reported significantly lower rates of feeling left out, while the post-COVID rural respondents reported similar rates.


To learn more about these findings, follow the link below to download the research brief from the RTC:Rural and Rural Institute ScholarWorks collection:

ScholarWorks University of Montana

America at a glance: Social isolation and loneliness during the first wave of COVID-19

The research brief is is available to download as an accessible PDF, text-only Word doc or text-only EPUB file.


COVID-19 and Rural People with Disabilities

RTC:Rural has been working to share relevant research and information about how the COVID-19 pandemic is, and will continue, to impact people with disabilities. Find a curated list of our COVID-19 posts here:

COVID-19 and Rural People with Disabilities