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Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - Add loneliness to the list of problems caused by the COVID-19 virus - especially among women.

A recent study by Mayo Clinic researchers “found a significant increase in loneliness and a decrease in feelings of friendship during the pandemic.”

The study found women and those with poorer health were especially affected by feelings of loneliness. The researchers acknowledge the importance of social distancing and avoiding family and social gatherings but Covid-related restrictions “can have unintended social, mental, financial and substance abuse issues.”

"A conscious effort should be made to make meaningful social connection with others," says Jon Ebbert, M.D., a Mayo Clinic internal medicine physician and senior author of the study. "During times of social strain and stress, it is important to not only be helpful to one another, but also be present."

Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic


Women reported higher levels of loneliness during the pandemic, compared to men. The researchers hypothesize that one contributing factor could be that women's employment was significantly more likely to have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to U.S. unemployment data.

"The workplace is often a place of social networking and support. Furthermore, as jobs transitioned from the workplace to the home setting, this could have further strained social connections for women," says lead author Lindsey Philpot, Ph.D., a health services researcher and epidemiologist in the Department of Medicine at Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic

The largest change was a decrease in friendships, followed by an increase in loneliness.

"Personal connection comes in many forms. We may be observing that during an infectious pandemic, women may suffer a greater burden of loneliness," Dr. Ebbert says. "All of us should remember to focus on friendships to remain resilient during significant changes in social structures."

People in a lifetime relationship made up 77% of survey respondents. Of the respondents, 63% were women, 78% said they were in good or very good health, and the average age was 60.

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