Extreme Social Isolation and Loneliness Affect Almost One Quarter of Canadians


Survey identifies pockets of resilience against isolation and loneliness in Canadian society.


June 17, 2019

OTTAWA, ON – An extensive new survey by the Angus Reid Institute, conducted in partnership with think tank Cardus, finds that 23 percent of Canadians suffer from extreme social isolation and loneliness. An almost equal proportion of Canadians struggles with neither of those issues. The survey also found:

  • 33% of Canadians say they’re not sure they could count on anyone for emergency financial help.
  • 18% of Canadians say they’re not certain they could lean on anyone during a personal crisis.
  • 45% of Canadians say they haven’t interacted socially with a neighbour in the last month.
  • 38% of Canadians with a physical disability struggle with social isolation and loneliness.

“Social isolation and loneliness are one of the biggest challenges of our time,” says Ray Pennings, executive vice president of Cardus. “They’re a symptom of our culture’s obsession with personal autonomy, leaving us living life as ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’ In doing so, we reap the poorer financial, mental, and physical health associated with isolation and loneliness, possibly making us more vulnerable to things like drug abuse, suicide, and the debt spiral caused by payday loan use.”

The survey also identified pockets of resilience in Canadian society:

  • 75% of Canadians who were neither isolated nor lonely were married (or living common law) compared to just 48% of those who struggle with both issues.
  • 63% of Canadians who were neither isolated nor lonely had children, compared to 58% of the most isolated and lonely.
  • 36% of Canadians who weren’t isolated attended religious services at least monthly, compared to just 17% of the very isolated.
  • 51% of Canadians who weren’t isolated prayed at least monthly, compared to 38% of the very isolated.

“Two key social institutions seem to provide a buffer against isolation and loneliness – family and faith,” says Pennings. “Governments, media, the academy, social agencies, and all Canadians need to recognise the value of these institutions in order to find the solutions so many of us need.”

Check out the full survey results online.


Rachel DeBruyn
Cardus – Communications Officer
613-241-4500 x506


Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.