Loneliness is having an impact on the workplace as electronic devices increasingly pull employees away from contact with others, drawing their attention to screens on tablets, phones and laptops, according to a recent study by Cigna Corp.
Twitter, Facebook and other social media also create loneliness, with very heavy users “significantly more likely to feel alone, isolated, left out and without companionship,” the study said.
Lonely workers say they are less engaged, less productive and report lower retention rates, are twice as likely to miss a day of work due to illness and five times more likely to miss work due to stress. And they say they think about quitting their jobs more than twice as often as workers who are not lonely.
“The trends shaping how we work — increasing use of technology, more telecommuting and the always-on work culture — are leaving Americans more stressed, less rested, spending more time on social media and less time with friends and family,” said David M. Cordani, chief executive officer of the Bloomfield health insurer.
For businesses, loneliness results in less engagement, less productivity and lower retention levels, he said.
The 2020 Loneliness Index surveyed more than 10,400 adults 18 and older and is based on the University of California, Los Angeles “loneliness scale,” a 20-item questionnaire assessing subjective feelings of loneliness or social isolation.
Loneliness is more prevalent among men than women; urban and suburban residents than those in rural communities; and youths 18 to 22 than their grandparents in their 70s. Overall, three out of five Americans, or 61%, report feelings of loneliness.
Among respondents surveyed, 58% say they always or sometimes feel like no one knows them well, up 4 percentage points from 2018. More than half, or 52%, report sometimes or always feeling alone, up 6 percentage points from 2018.
Those reporting they felt left out saw a similar increase, to 52%, from 47% in 2018. And 49% always or sometimes feel as if they lack companionship, up from 43%.
Cigna says it is responding by redefining and broadening services available to address and deliver support for mental health needs, expanding access to its network of more than 170,000 mental and behavioral health care providers and establishing preferred provider networks in areas of the country where the behavioral provider industry faces a “significant supply and demand issue.”
The Cigna Foundation is committing $3 million over three years to support mental well-being in schools.
Cigna said a 2018 survey of 20,000 adults found that loneliness had reached “epidemic levels,” with nearly 50% of Americans considering themselves lonely. Survey results also suggested that Generation Z, which includes young people ages 18 to 22, appears to be “the loneliest generation.”