Loneliness NZ


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Meaning of loneliness

Loneliness is an emotional state that arises from not having the desired sufficient meaningful connections with others – those people you could rely on in time of need. Loneliness is not related to how many friends or relationships you have, or whether you are alone or amongst people.

Loneliness and social isolation are different concepts but they are interconnected…one can exacerbate the other, or they can be simultaneously causing distress.

Triggers of loneliness

Loneliness can be triggered when you:

Remember past relationships

...feel pain remembering any significant relationship (to you) that has ended for any reason (death, separation, divorce).

Experience unrequitted love

...feel empty in love from a relationship which you desire to be in but you are not noticed, or which you are in one but feel neglected.

Feel unfulfilled by close people

...realise your relationships (siblings, friends, partners) are not emotionally satisfying.

Are not understood by someone

...recognise that you are not truly known and understood by another (anyone at all or a particular individual).

Life changes around you

...have less access to social relationships through changed life circumstances.

Feeling lonely

When you do not have one or more people in your life where caring and deep understanding is mutually felt, you feel unfulfilled. You feel sadness, and heartache…. and distress.  Because loneliness is a feeling of being disconnected, you can feel lonely in circumstances of not being alone, even after:

  • having recently met new people in your new job;
  • connected with many people who were meaningful to you in your past on social media;
  • being amongst people in a crowd at an organised event;
  • being married for twenty years.

The feeling of disconnection is a perception in the lonely person’s mind…so if someone perceives that their world is not right, and they say they are lonely, then they are in fact lonely.

Depths of loneliness

Loneliness sometimes distorts our perceptions of our relationships. People who are lonely might feel unwanted, unloved, undesirable, insignificant, despairing, insecure, or abandoned. When this happens you might choose to become socially isolated, withdrawing even further from those whānau, friends and family, who could lessen your loneliness.

As you become more lonely, people around you might reduce or altogether stop their previous meaningful connections, creating a situation of further social isolation.

Loneliness can cause you to become emotionally isolated. Prolonged or chronic loneliness can lead you to believe that you are depressed, or, in some circumstances, can lead to depression.

Loneliness NZ helps people who feel lonely to understand themselves and people around them, and to work to improve their healthy interactions with people. For more information, see ‘I’m feeling lonely‘. 

Additionally Loneliness NZ works with groups to help people understand how they might reduce loneliness in New Zealand. For more information, see ‘Let’s prevent loneliness‘.

Related terms

One way to further understand what loneliness means is to explore related concepts and terminology (by selecting one of the coloured rectangles below).

These terms may or may not overlap with the meaning of loneliness, but give further insight into the nature of being alone, loneliness, and various forms of isolation.