Sources and Consequences of Social Isolation

Communication with other people is the essential part of human life. However, some people do not agree with this fact and choose to be alone, seeking solitude and isolation from the society. Others are excluded from community involuntary because their lifestyle or personal characteristics seem to be not suitable for socially active life. Sometimes, the source of isolation is individual’s disobedience, when one decides to rebel against authority or majority. In all cases mentioned above, individuals become isolated without a right or desire to take part in social life. Social isolation is a rather controversial concept since there is great number of different points of view on it. One of them is that being excluded from community is not natural, and it is normal that people seek companionship and relationships with others. From this perspective, even voluntary isolation can be viewed as a result of mental problems. On the other hand, every person is an individual. Why should one seek for social communication if he does not want to do this? What if all he wants is a voluntary solitude? The argument of this paper is that social isolation is mostly a result of individual’s inability to agree that living in society according to its rules is natural. Although both voluntary and involuntary isolation have their specific sources and effects, social isolation as a phenomenon has no right to exist in contemporary world and is to be reduced.

Sources of Social Isolation

John Donne once said “No man is an island”. For the majority of people, being along is something unbearable. The lives of socially active people are richer for the contacts they share. When people engage in different relationships, they feel that their existence is valuable to others. Of course, everyone sometimes needs their own space and time for being along, but these desires are usually fulfilled quickly and easily. In this way, social communication is a natural phenomenon, while isolation is not, and it usually has negative consequences.

Isolation is defined as the physical and/or psychological distancing of a person from his or her relationships with other people. Social isolation is a loss of place within society or social group, which may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary isolates seek solitude for a variety of reasons. They usually have more positive feelings about being isolated than those who were excluded from society involuntary. Why does social isolation take place?

Such aspects as personal circumstances, transitions, personal characteristics, health and geographical factors may influence person’s desire to be isolated. Here are the main factors that lead to voluntary or involuntary social isolation:

  1. Life circumstances. If an individual lives alone (never married or divorced), has low income and lives with residential care, he is likely to become isolated.
  2. Serious changes in life, usually negative ones. Negative changes people face (like bereavement, becoming a caregiver or retirement) are likely to make people depressed. In the mentioned cases, people usually want to stay alone and are irritated when someone propose help. In some cases, there is simply nobody who could help, and people become isolated involuntary.
  3. Personal characteristics. Among them are age, belonging to ethnical or sexual minority group, etc. For example, a person in declining years usually stays alone because his/her children are busy with their own lives. As to those who belong to minority group, an example is a lesbian or a gay who lives and works among people with traditional orientation.
  4. Poor health, immobility, cognitive or sensory impairment. These are the cases when voluntary isolation usually takes place.
  5. Geography. If one lives in a poor area with low level of living conditions or high criminal level, he can become isolated in order to be safe.

It needs to be mentioned that older people are more prone to become socially isolated or lonely owing to loss of friends and family, mobility or income. As one can see, the majority of factors have psychological background, depending upon person’s worldview and attitudes.

The isolation works at four levels:

  1. The level of community. An individual is made (or decides to become) isolated from large social structure because he or she does not suit it or is not a part of the whole.
  2. Organizational level. In this case, one feels as a stranger at work, in school, or religious community.
  3. Isolation within a family or a group of friends because of different intentions and worldviews.
  4. The level of personality. It happens if the personality of an individual does not accept existing rules.

One more source of social isolation that deserves attention is disobedience and the desire to break the rules of society. Nowadays, this problem is especially urgent since many people show tendency to raise individuality over society. According to the Bible, the sin started from the act of disobedience. Later, throughout the history, there were many similar cases when people rebelled, started wars, united in minor groups because their understanding of life differed from understanding of majority. Thus, when there is a great number of people who disobey, they unite in new communities and live within them. When the disobedience takes place on the level of one person, he becomes isolated and excluded from society.

Consequences of Social Isolation

The effect of social isolation may be compared to the effect of cigarette smoking. It ruins lives since isolated people do not feel happy, and that is why their physical health suffers. Instead, the feeling of boredom, marginality and exclusion appears, especially if they want to be included into particular community. Among other feelings provoked by isolation are loneliness, anger, sadness and despair.

The consequences of social isolation are the absence of vitality, energy and enthusiasm, likelihood of a range of serious illnesses and sickness, longer recovery. Involuntary isolated people usually feel depressed and lonely. As a result, such people are not satisfied with their life. Together, all the consequences lead to a short life span.


It is believed that if social isolation is experienced positively, it is not a problem. Undoubtedly, the ideas that social isolation in the forms of voluntary solitude, aloneness or alienation is quite normal and people can live well in such conditions deserve attention. Still, human beings are social creatures, and real happiness may be achieved only within society.

When a person feels as a stranger in a particular community, there must be a kind of depression or circumstances that has led to such perception. These ideas belong to existentialists. They believed that actions and choices of every individual are extremely important; every person has to choose individually what is good and bad for him or her. Social isolation brings people similar ideas. They ask questions like: “Who I am in the world?”, “What is human freedom?”, “What is the person apart from society”. Existentialism is often causes negative emotions, which do not associate with real happiness. Whether an individual thinks one way or another, it is important to find a consensus. This is the main rule of life for everyone who was born in society. A number of investigations aimed to prove the opposite idea does not matter because relationships with others are natural and essential for humans.

Uniting in communities is the essential part of this world. People communicate, unite in families and companies, and gain knowledge within scholar communities. Those who live according to the rules of society are more likely to live happy and full life, be healthy and successful. The fact that people need other people to stay alive in all meanings is proved by the incontestable evidence. Social isolation is a phenomenon that exists due to many reasons. Sometimes, difficult life situations and poor circumstances that people face influence their perception of the world greatly. As a result, they become excluded from the community either voluntary or involuntary. Of course, every case of social isolation has unique peculiarities, and, sometimes, the reasons for exclusion may seem reasonable. People who are excluded intentionally may feel happy, but still, it does not mean that their live is full life. The decision to be alone has a serious psychological background. There is something isolated people cannot cope with, and they decide to hide from others. In most cases, the sources of social isolation do not matter since isolation usually has negative effects and should be reduced by various methods, proposed by the psychologists and sociologists.

Check out the short answer questions regarding the social isolation.

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