Loneliness Increases Risk of Severe ‘Common Mental Disorders’

Loneliness was found to both predict and be reinforced by severe common mental disorders.


A recent study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology examines the relationship between loneliness and “common mental disorders” of varying severity. Performing a longitudinal analysis on a cohort of Dutch adults aged 18-64, the authors found that loneliness predicts the onset of severe common mental disorders (CMDs), but not mild to moderate CMDs. They also discovered that severe CMDs predict an increase in loneliness over time.

“Large-scale studies of young, middle-aged and older adults in the general population report rates of loneliness ranging from 14 to 47%, write Jasper Nuyen and co-authors. “Several cross-sectional, population-based studies found loneliness to be strongly related to mood and anxiety disorders in adults (including elderly), and recent studies also suggest a cross-sectional link with substance-use disorders.”

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Loneliness can be defined as a situation experienced by an individual as one where there is an unpleasant or inadmissible lack of (quality of) certain relationships. Loneliness predicts a variety of mental and physical health issues, such that some researchers in the U.S. are calling it a public health threat.

Quality social connection is widely considered a fundamental human need, but two out of five Americans report that they “sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful.” Over half of all Americans reported feeling that no one knows them well. Many European countries show high rates of loneliness as well, although countries such as Portugal, Greece, and others may have less of an epidemic on their hands.

“Some evidence from population-based longitudinal research exists suggesting that loneliness increases the risk for onset of anxiety and depressive disorders,” the researchers write.

“Among adults aged 30–31 years at baseline, loneliness was found to increase the risk of first-time hospital admission for an anxiety disorder during a 13-year follow-up period, also after adjusting for age, income, and number of physical diseases. An earlier study among older adults showed that baseline loneliness predicted incident depression at a 3-year follow-up.”

The current study seeks to improve and expand on existing research on the mental health effects of loneliness. Most of the existing literature focuses on anxiety and depression, but Nuyen and co-authors believe that targeting mental disorders more broadly will help shed greater light on the loneliness epidemic. Additionally, much of the previous research has focused on clinical and elderly populations. The current study’s authors focus on general non-clinical adult populations in the Netherlands.

Longitudinal data following a cohort of Dutch adults were drawn from The Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (NEMESIS-2), with adults aged 18-64. A 3-year follow-up method was used to examine the long-term effects of loneliness on mental health, and mental health on loneliness. A total of 6646 Dutch adults were interviewed face-to-face with computer assistance at the outset, with several follow-up interviews, each with 3 years between.

The number of available interviewees decreased at each follow-up, from 5303 to 4618 and eventually to 4007. Data from the second and third follow-up interview sessions were used in the current study, in order to analyze long-term loneliness effects, using the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale.

“Common mental disorders” were rated from mild-moderate to severe, using the DSM-IV and the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). The following disorders were included: mood disorders (major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders (panic disorder, agoraphobia without panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder), and substance use disorders (alcohol/drug abuse and dependence).

The following conditions were counted as ‘severe’: bipolar I disorder, substance dependence with a physiological dependence syndrome, a suicide attempt in the past 12 months, or severe self-reported impairment in at least two areas of role functioning.

At baseline, a sub-cohort without a 12-month CMD was discovered, and the rate of loneliness in that group was 16.8%. After three years, 5.8% of this group developed a mild-moderate 12-month CMD, while 2.8% developed one of the severe CMDs. A univariate multinomial logistic regression analysis showed that baseline loneliness was associated with later onset of severe CMDs, but not mild-moderate CMDs, which was supported by three multivariate regressions as well.

38% of respondents with a 12-month CMD at the outset reported experiencing loneliness. 45.3% of these respondents continued to experience CMDs at follow-up, with 24.1% being mild-moderate and 21.2% being severe. Again, both univariate and multivariate regression analyses showed a link between loneliness and the continuation of severe CMDs, but not mild-moderate CMDs.

Of a group that initially responded as not experiencing loneliness, 7.7% had a mild-moderate 12-month CMD, and 3.3% reported severe CMDs. After three years, nearly 10% of this group reported experiencing loneliness.

“Severe CMD at baseline remained a predictor of the onset of loneliness in multivariate analysis, also when adjusting for perceived social support at baseline. None of the three multivariate models found mild-moderate CMD to be at baseline associated with developing loneliness at follow-up,” write Nuyen and co-authors.

Finally, of the cohort that reported experiencing loneliness at baseline, 12.1% had a mild-moderate CMD at follow-up, while 15.3% had a severe CMD. 59.9% reported loneliness at the next follow-up.

Interestingly, the relationship between baseline loneliness and severe CMDs at follow-up disappeared when the researchers controlled for perceived social support.

“This agrees with a previous finding that, among older patients with depressive disorder, the association between baseline loneliness and poor depression course became non-significant after adjusting for other aspects of social relationships, including subjective social support.”

The article had several strengths, such as the large non-clinical population-based sample, the longitudinal design covering the effects of loneliness over multiple time-periods, and the use of established psychometric instruments to assess variables such as loneliness and CMDs.

Limitations included an underrepresentation of Dutch inhabitants who were not fluent in speaking Dutch, as well as difficulties assessing the degree of loneliness because individuals experiencing very severe loneliness were too few to be meaningfully analyzed.

Additionally, the authors reported some inconsistencies regarding how the two main variables were measured, such that loneliness was assessed at baseline and follow-up periods, but CMDs were assessed in 12-month intervals preceding and following the interview sessions.

The authors conclude:

“Furthermore, this study points to the importance to pay adequate attention to loneliness, both in adults with and without CMD. Professionals working in various settings, including local community, general practice, and mental health care, should be aware that lonely adults are at increased risk of developing severe CMD, and that loneliness in adults with an existing CMD increases the risk of poor outcome, in terms of persistent severe CMD.”

“Moreover, professionals should be alert to the onset of loneliness among adults with severe CMDs as they are an at-risk group. Our findings suggest that interventions to reduce loneliness may help to prevent the onset of severe CMD in adults, and may contribute to better outcomes in those with an existing CMD.”



Nuyen, J., Tuithof, M., de, G. R., van, D. S., Kleinjan, M., & Have, M. T. (2019). The bidirectional relationship between loneliness and common mental disorders in adults: Findings from a longitudinal population-based cohort study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. (Link)

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Micah Ingle, PhD
Micah is part-time faculty in psychology at Point Park University. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology: Consciousness and Society from the University of West Georgia. His interests include humanistic, critical, and liberation psychologies. He has published work on empathy, individualism, group therapy, and critical masculinities. Micah has served on the executive boards of Division 32 of the American Psychological Association (Society for Humanistic Psychology) as well as Division 24 (Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology). His current research focuses on critiques of the western individualizing medical model, as well as cultivating alternatives via humanities-oriented group and community work.


  1. They’re setting up loneliness to be the newest, make believe, DSM “mental disorder.” Despite the reality that all the DSM disorders were confessed to be “invalid” over six years ago.


    Why is MiA still allowing them to write articles about the “invalid” DSM disorders? I know, I know.

    “the authors found that loneliness predicts the onset of severe common mental disorders (CMDs), but not mild to moderate CMDs. They also discovered that severe CMDs predict an increase in loneliness over time.”

    What proof do you have that it’s not the other way around? Being misdiagnosed and defamed with severe common “mental disorders” causes loneliness over time? Since I believe that is the truth.

    At least that’s been my experience. Because having “mental health” lunatics misdiagnose the common symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome as “bipolar,” and defame me to my husband with that serious “mental illness,” destroyed our marriage. It did not destroy my relationships with other people initially, however, since the “mental health” lunatics did not individually gaslight all my friends, just my husband and family. But having good relationships with my friends did help me escape the lunacy of the “mental health” workers.

    However, since my “mental health” workers so thoroughly gas lighted my husband, he decided it would be clever to take all my money, which was in our home, out of our home, and put it all into his siblings’ names. Then he stopped paying our mortgage. Which, of course, resulted in a foreclosure, despite the reality that the bank we had been paying our mortgage to for eleven years, didn’t even have our current mortgage, the note, nor even the date the note was assigned to them. Since our mortgage had never actually been assigned to that bank. At least according to paperwork later received by me from the mortgage company that actually had my mortgage, and the foreclosing bank, who couldn’t produce my current mortgage in a court of law. But, alas, “the Kane county judges are all bought out by the banks,” as all the lawyers said. So I still lost the case.

    Nonetheless, none of that would have even happened if “mental health” lunatics had not misdiagnosed me, gaslighted my husband, and destroyed our marriage. All as it turned out, according to medical records handed over and later picked up, to cover up the sexual assault of my innocent child for an ELCA pastor, and his child rape covering up ELCA bishops. I’d be one of the many “widows” mentioned in the Preface of this book.


    You know you’ve had egregious crimes committed against you, when other people are writing scathing books about the egregious crimes committed against you.

    And covering up child abuse is the number one actual societal function of our “mental health” lunatics, both historically and still today. An ethical pastor of a different religion confessed this sad reality is “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”



    And I’ve had to recommend Whitaker’s book to Catholic child abuse survivor’s parents, too.

    Nonetheless, back to loneliness. When one’s home is foreclosed upon by a bank, one must move. A wealthy friend did offer to let me move in with her, but my children were both off to school by that point, and my parents needed help downsizing, so I decided to go help my parents. Which meant, however, moving away from all my friends unfortunately.

    And this can cause loneliness, especially since it’s harder to make friends after your kids are grown, when you are a widow, and after much of your money was stolen from you. Especially in this world that worships the worthless paper money, created out of nothing, by our never ending war mongering and profiteering, bailout needing, fiscally irresponsible, “banks steal $trillions worth of houses” banksters.


    And the fact those banksters have not been arrested is a societal problem, since it’s encouraging them to continue to attempt to steal more. My story of the attempted thievery from “widows,” by the banksters and the ELCA churches continues.

    I was volunteering in my childhood church, and they had a show of my artwork. Oops! “Too truthful” artwork for the ELCA and the “mental health” workers within. It’d been described as “insightful” and “work of smart woman” by my delusional psychiatrist years prior who, prior to bothering to look at my work, harbored odd delusions I was “w/o work, content, and talent.” But apparently, when the truth is attached to my work, rather than that psychiatrist’s DSM delusions, my work became “too truthful” and “prophetic.”

    So the ELCA sicks another Lutheran psychologist/bank owners’ son/artist onto me. This guy had delusions of grandeur so staggering it’s amazing. First he claimed to want to give me an “artist of the year” award. Okay, that’s nice, right? Then he claimed to want to be my “art manager.” But then he handed over a contract stating he wanted to take a percentage of “gross” sales from my work, which would have meant I’d owe him money for each sale, based upon the art marketing approach he was recommending. He also wanted to take control of my story, my lawyers, my accountants, and all my family’s money. No thanks, attempted thief. And I’ll leave that thieving church your wife works for too. “Run from the churches that want to steal your money.”

    The fact the child rape covering up “mental health” workers have turned our mainstream religions into child rape covering up, DSM “bible” worshipping, steal from the widows religions. Instead of Holy Bible worshipping, don’t steal from the widows, Christian religions, with their “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” This, too, causes loneliness.

    But, on to a different religion once again. It’s sad my childhood religion has sunk so low, won’t repent, and stop advocating for the mass psychiatric drugging of our country’s children.


    At least the ELCA’s pushing and praying for other people’s children to be GLBT is finally being openly advertised by them today. But when the child rape covering up “mental health” religion takes over the mainstream religions, this can cause loneliness for the mothers who stand against child abuse.

    I do hope some day that both the “mental health” workers and the religions realize profiteering off of covering up pedophilia is a bad idea for society as a whole, plus also illegal.


    It’s lonely to be a mother who stands against child abuse. It’s lonely to be a Spirit led, anti-child abuse artist living in a world where Spirit cooking and pedophilia art are all the rage with the monied powers that shouldn’t be.


    What kind of insane world am I living in? Everyone should stand against the abuse of children. Oh, but covering up child abuse is “too profitable” for the doctors, religions, and their hospitals to stop doing. Upside down and backwards, America, as I painted in 2005. “Prophetic.”

    I’m quite certain the real truth is that being misdiagnosed and defamed with the “invalid” severe common “mental disorders,” so our “mental health” workers and religious hospitals can profiteer off of covering up child abuse on a massive societal scale, causes loneliness over time, not the other way around.

    America needs to start arresting the pedophiles and child sex traffickers, and our “mental health” workers and religious leaders need to get out of the child rape covering up business. At least I’m no longer the only red, yellow, green, orange, white, purple, everything but blue pilled person, around. Lots of people are being “red pilled” and awakened to the ugly truth online. And we can’t fix our society’s problems, if we keep denying these systemic pedophilia and child sex trafficking run amok problems exist.

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  2. No, loneliness does not increase risk of “common mental disorders” and I will not use the language of the DSM to make the point so that those who are still enjoying their privileged existences can other me as part of the “afflicted”. Loneliness increases risk of severe emotional distress and psychic anguish. It is a kind of psychic death. It is an effect of a toxically individualistic, and fear-promoting culture that values productivity, competition and a veneer of cheerfulness far more than love, genuine nurturing and cooperation.

    I’m sorry to say that neither Cigna nor any workplace wellness program (nor even the well intended events arranged by my strictly ruled corporate owned apartment complex) will be leading the way back to happiness. This can’t be fixed by the same entities causing the problem to begin with.

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  3. “Loneliness Increases Risk of Severe ‘Common Mental Disorders’”

    No, that is not correct. There is no such thing as these ~Common Mental Disorders~.

    Loneliness will create stress and marginalization. But there are no ~Mental Disorders~.

    The real public health threat is really just public lying, telling people that there are ~mental disorders~.

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  4. Anyone who has been marginalized, blocked in their quest to properly apply their skills and abilities, they may find themselves as a target for psychotherapy and recovery.

    We need to have organized ways to resist, like a religious objection.

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  5. “Being Labeled With ‘Common Mental Disorder’ Ensures Loneliness.”

    That was MUCH more accurate. Stay as far away from shrinks as possible. They will ruin your life in every way imaginable.

    39 out of 40 cases of “Bipolar” would not occur without “help” from pharma-psychiatry. And they always blame the patient for bad reactions. My sister is allergic to penicillin but has never been punished for it.

    Shrinks are different though since they write their victims off as crazy, thereby evading accountability to anyone. Psychiatry means never saying you’re sorry.

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