A woman sits alone in a Parisian cafe with a glass of wine, while the neighbouring tables are full of socialising groups

Paris, 1951. Photo by Elliot Erwitt/Magnum

Loved, yet lonely

You might have the unconditional love of family and friends and yet feel deep loneliness. can philosophy explain why.

by Kaitlyn Creasy   + BIO

Although one of the loneliest moments of my life happened more than 15 years ago, I still remember its uniquely painful sting. I had just arrived back home from a study abroad semester in Italy. During my stay in Florence, my Italian had advanced to the point where I was dreaming in the language. I had also developed intellectual interests in Italian futurism, Dada, and Russian absurdism – interests not entirely deriving from a crush on the professor who taught a course on those topics – as well as the love sonnets of Dante and Petrarch (conceivably also related to that crush). I left my semester abroad feeling as many students likely do: transformed not only intellectually but emotionally. My picture of the world was complicated, my very experience of that world richer, more nuanced.

After that semester, I returned home to a small working-class town in New Jersey. Home proper was my boyfriend’s parents’ home, which was in the process of foreclosure but not yet taken by the bank. Both parents had left to live elsewhere, and they graciously allowed me to stay there with my boyfriend, his sister and her boyfriend during college breaks. While on break from school, I spent most of my time with these de facto roommates and a handful of my dearest childhood friends.

When I returned from Italy, there was so much I wanted to share with them. I wanted to talk to my boyfriend about how aesthetically interesting but intellectually dull I found Italian futurism; I wanted to communicate to my closest friends how deeply those Italian love sonnets moved me, how Bob Dylan so wonderfully captured their power. (‘And every one of them words rang true/and glowed like burning coal/Pouring off of every page/like it was written in my soul …’) In addition to a strongly felt need to share specific parts of my intellectual and emotional lives that had become so central to my self-understanding, I also experienced a dramatically increased need to engage intellectually, as well as an acute need for my emotional life in all its depth and richness – for my whole being, this new being – to be appreciated. When I returned home, I felt not only unable to engage with others in ways that met my newly developed needs, but also unrecognised for who I had become since I left. And I felt deeply, painfully lonely.

This experience is not uncommon for study-abroad students. Even when one has a caring and supportive network of relationships, one will often experience ‘reverse culture shock’ – what the psychologist Kevin Gaw describes as a ‘process of readjusting, reacculturating, and reassimilating into one’s own home culture after living in a different culture for a significant period of time’ – and feelings of loneliness are characteristic for individuals in the throes of this process.

But there are many other familiar life experiences that provoke feelings of loneliness, even if the individuals undergoing those experiences have loving friends and family: the student who comes home to his family and friends after a transformative first year at college; the adolescent who returns home to her loving but repressed parents after a sexual awakening at summer camp; the first-generation woman of colour in graduate school who feels cared for but also perpetually ‘ in-between ’ worlds, misunderstood and not fully seen either by her department members or her family and friends back home; the travel nurse who returns home to her partner and friends after an especially meaningful (or perhaps especially psychologically taxing) work assignment; the man who goes through a difficult breakup with a long-term, live-in partner; the woman who is the first in her group of friends to become a parent; the list goes on.

Nor does it take a transformative life event to provoke feelings of loneliness. As time passes, it often happens that friends and family who used to understand us quite well eventually fail to understand us as they once did, failing to really see us as they used to before. This, too, will tend to lead to feelings of loneliness – though the loneliness may creep in more gradually, more surreptitiously. Loneliness, it seems, is an existential hazard, something to which human beings are always vulnerable – and not just when they are alone.

In his recent book Life Is Hard (2022), the philosopher Kieran Setiya characterises loneliness as the ‘pain of social disconnection’. There, he argues for the importance of attending to the nature of loneliness – both why it hurts and what ‘that pain tell[s] us about how to live’ – especially given the contemporary prevalence of loneliness. He rightly notes that loneliness is not just a matter of being isolated from others entirely, since one can be lonely even in a room full of people. Additionally, he notes that, since the negative psychological and physiological effects of loneliness ‘seem to depend on the subjective experience of being lonely’, effectively combatting loneliness requires us to identify the origin of this subjective experience.

S etiya’s proposal is that we are ‘social animals with social needs’ that crucially include needs to be loved and to have our basic worth recognised. When we fail to have these basic needs met, as we do when we are apart from our friends, we suffer loneliness. Without the presence of friends to assure us that we matter, we experience the painful ‘sensation of hollowness, of a hole in oneself that used to be filled and now is not’. This is loneliness in its most elemental form. (Setiya uses the term ‘friends’ broadly, to include close family and romantic partners, and I follow his usage here.)

Imagine a woman who lands a job requiring a long-distance move to an area where she knows no one. Even if there are plenty of new neighbours and colleagues to greet her upon her arrival, Setiya’s claim is that she will tend to experience feelings of loneliness, since she does not yet have close, loving relationships with these people. In other words, she will tend to experience feelings of loneliness because she does not yet have friends whose love of her reflects back to her the basic value as a person that she has, friends who let her see that she matters. Only when she makes genuine friendships will she feel her unconditional value is acknowledged; only then will her basic social needs to be loved and recognised be met. Once she feels she truly matters to someone, in Setiya’s view, her loneliness will abate.

Setiya is not alone in connecting feelings of loneliness to a lack of basic recognition. In The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), for example, Hannah Arendt also defines loneliness as a feeling that results when one’s human dignity or unconditional worth as a person fails to be recognised and affirmed, a feeling that results when this, one of the ‘basic requirements of the human condition’, fails to be met.

These accounts get a good deal about loneliness right. But they miss something as well. On these views, loving friendships allow us to avoid loneliness because the loving friend provides a form of recognition we require as social beings. Without loving friendships, or when we are apart from our friends, we are unable to secure this recognition. So we become lonely. But notice that the feature affirmed by the friend here – my unconditional value – is radically depersonalised. The property the friend recognises and affirms in me is the same property she recognises and affirms in her other friendships. Otherwise put, the recognition that allegedly mitigates loneliness in Setiya’s view is the friend’s recognition of an impersonal, abstract feature of oneself, a quality one shares with every other human being: her unconditional worth as a human being. (The recognition given by the loving friend is that I ‘[matter] … just like everyone else.’)

Just as one can feel lonely in a room full of strangers, one can feel lonely in a room full of friends

Since my dignity or worth is disconnected from any particular feature of myself as an individual, however, my friend can recognise and affirm that worth without acknowledging or engaging my particular needs, specific values and so on. If Setiya is calling it right, then that friend can assuage my loneliness without engaging my individuality.

Or can they? Accounts that tie loneliness to a failure of basic recognition (and the alleviation of loneliness to love and acknowledgement of one’s dignity) may be right about the origin of certain forms of loneliness. But it seems to me that this is far from the whole picture, and that accounts like these fail to explain a wide variety of familiar circumstances in which loneliness arises.

When I came home from my study-abroad semester, I returned to a network of robust, loving friendships. I was surrounded daily by a steadfast group of people who persistently acknowledged and affirmed my unconditional value as a person, putting up with my obnoxious pretension (so it must have seemed) and accepting me even though I was alien in crucial ways to the friend they knew before. Yet I still suffered loneliness. In fact, while I had more close friendships than ever before – and was as close with friends and family members as I had ever been – I was lonelier than ever. And this is also true of the familiar scenarios from above: the first-year college student, the new parent, the travel nurse, and so on. All these scenarios are ripe for painful feelings of loneliness even though the individuals undergoing such experiences have a loving network of friends, family and colleagues who support them and recognise their unconditional value.

So, there must be more to loneliness than Setiya’s account (and others like it) let on. Of course, if an individual’s worth goes unrecognised, she will feel awfully lonely. But just as one can feel lonely in a room full of strangers, one can feel lonely in a room full of friends. What plagues accounts that tie loneliness to an absence of basic recognition is that they fail to do justice to loneliness as a feeling that pops up not only when one lacks sufficiently loving, affirmative relationships, but also when one perceives that the relationships she has (including and perhaps especially loving relationships) lack sufficient quality (for example, lacking depth or a desired feeling of connection). And an individual will perceive such relationships as lacking sufficient quality when her friends and family are not meeting the specific needs she has, or recognising and affirming her as the particular individual that she is.

We see this especially in the midst or aftermath of transitional and transformational life events, when greater-than-usual shifts occur. As the result of going through such experiences, we often develop new values, core needs and centrally motivating desires, losing other values, needs and desires in the process. In other words, after undergoing a particularly transformative experience, we become different people in key respects than we were before. If after such a personal transformation, our friends are unable to meet our newly developed core needs or recognise and affirm our new values and central desires – perhaps in large part because they cannot , because they do not (yet) recognise or understand who we have become – we will suffer loneliness.

This is what happened to me after Italy. By the time I got back, I had developed new core needs – as one example, the need for a certain level and kind of intellectual engagement – which were unmet when I returned home. What’s more, I did not think it particularly fair to expect my friends to meet these needs. After all, they did not possess the conceptual frameworks for discussing Russian absurdism or 13th-century Italian love sonnets; these just weren’t things they had spent time thinking about. And I didn’t blame them; expecting them to develop or care about developing such a conceptual framework seemed to me ridiculous. Even so, without a shared framework, I felt unable to meet my need for intellectual engagement and communicate to my friends the fullness of my inner life, which was overtaken by quite specific aesthetic values, values that shaped how I saw the world. As a result, I felt lonely.

I n addition to developing new needs, I understood myself as having changed in other fundamental respects. While I knew my friends loved me and affirmed my unconditional value, I did not feel upon my return home that they were able to see and affirm my individuality. I was radically changed; in fact, I felt in certain respects totally unrecognisable even to those who knew me best. After Italy, I inhabited a different, more nuanced perspective on the world; beauty, creativity and intellectual growth had become core values of mine; I had become a serious lover of poetry; I understood myself as a burgeoning philosopher. At the time, my closest friends were not able to see and affirm these parts of me, parts of me with which even relative strangers in my college courses were acquainted (though, of course, those acquaintances neither knew me nor were equipped to meet other of my needs which my friends had long met). When I returned home, I no longer felt truly seen by my friends .

One need not spend a semester abroad to experience this. For example, a nurse who initially chose her profession as a means to professional and financial stability might, after an especially meaningful experience with a patient, find herself newly and centrally motivated by a desire to make a difference in her patients’ lives. Along with the landscape of her desires, her core values may have changed: perhaps she develops a new core value of alleviating suffering whenever possible. And she may find certain features of her job – those that do not involve the alleviation of suffering, or involve the limited alleviation of suffering – not as fulfilling as they once were. In other words, she may have developed a new need for a certain form of meaningful difference-making – a need that, if not met, leaves her feeling flat and deeply dissatisfied.

Changes like these – changes to what truly moves you, to what makes you feel deeply fulfilled – are profound ones. To be changed in these respects is to be utterly changed. Even if you have loving friendships, if your friends are unable to recognise and affirm these new features of you, you may fail to feel seen, fail to feel valued as who you really are. At that point, loneliness will ensue. Interestingly – and especially troublesome for Setiya’s account – feelings of loneliness will tend to be especially salient and painful when the people unable to meet these needs are those who already love us and affirm our unconditional value.

Those with a strong need for their uniqueness to be recognised may be more disposed to loneliness

So, even with loving friends, if we perceive ourselves as unable to be seen and affirmed as the particular people we are, or if certain of our core needs go unmet, we will feel lonely. Setiya is surely right that loneliness will result in the absence of love and recognition. But it can also result from the inability – and sometimes, failure – of those with whom we have loving relationships to share or affirm our values, to endorse desires that we understand as central to our lives, and to satisfy our needs.

Another way to put it is that our social needs go far beyond the impersonal recognition of our unconditional worth as human beings. These needs can be as widespread as a need for reciprocal emotional attachment or as restricted as a need for a certain level of intellectual engagement or creative exchange. But even when the need in question is a restricted or uncommon one, if it is a deep need that requires another person to meet yet goes unmet, we will feel lonely. The fact that we suffer loneliness even when these quite specific needs are unmet shows that understanding and treating this feeling requires attending not just to whether my worth is affirmed, but to whether I am recognised and affirmed in my particularity and whether my particular, even idiosyncratic social needs are met by those around me.

What’s more, since different people have different needs, the conditions that produce loneliness will vary. Those with a strong need for their uniqueness to be recognised may be more disposed to loneliness. Others with weaker needs for recognition or reciprocal emotional attachment may experience a good deal of social isolation without feeling lonely at all. Some people might alleviate loneliness by cultivating a wide circle of not-especially-close friends, each of whom meets a different need or appreciates a different side of them. Yet others might persist in their loneliness without deep and intimate friendships in which they feel more fully seen and appreciated in their complexity, in the fullness of their being.

Yet, as ever-changing beings with friends and loved ones who are also ever-changing, we are always susceptible to loneliness and the pain of situations in which our needs are unmet. Most of us can recall a friend who once met certain of our core social needs, but who eventually – gradually, perhaps even imperceptibly – ultimately failed to do so. If such needs are not met by others in one’s life, this situation will lead one to feel profoundly, heartbreakingly lonely.

In cases like these, new relationships can offer true succour and light. For example, a lonely new parent might have childless friends who are clueless to the needs and values she develops through the hugely complicated transition to parenthood; as a result, she might cultivate relationships with other new parents or caretakers, people who share her newly developed values and better understand the joys, pains and ambivalences of having a child. To the extent that these new relationships enable her needs to be met and allow her to feel genuinely seen, they will help to alleviate her loneliness. Through seeking relationships with others who might share one’s interests or be better situated to meet one’s specific needs, then, one can attempt to face one’s loneliness head on.

But you don’t need to shed old relationships to cultivate the new. When old friends to whom we remain committed fail to meet our new needs, it’s helpful to ask how to salvage the situation, saving the relationship. In some instances, we might choose to adopt a passive strategy, acknowledging the ebb and flow of relationships and the natural lag time between the development of needs and others’ abilities to meet them. You could ‘wait it out’. But given that it is much more difficult to have your needs met if you don’t articulate them, an active strategy seems more promising. To position your friend to better meet your needs, you might attempt to communicate those needs and articulate ways in which you don’t feel seen.

Of course, such a strategy will be successful only if the unmet needs provoking one’s loneliness are needs one can identify and articulate. But we will so often – perhaps always – have needs, desires and values of which we are unaware or that we cannot articulate, even to ourselves. We are, to some extent, always opaque to ourselves. Given this opacity, some degree of loneliness may be an inevitable part of the human condition. What’s more, if we can’t even grasp or articulate the needs provoking our loneliness, then adopting a more passive strategy may be the only option one has. In cases like this, the only way to recognise your unmet needs or desires is to notice that your loneliness has started to lift once those needs and desires begin to be met by another.

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Loneliness Essay Example

Loneliness is a feeling that many people experience at one point or another. The impact of it on your life can vary greatly depending on the situation. This sample will explore the different types of loneliness, how to deal with them, and some tips for overcoming loneliness in general.

Essay Example On Loneliness

  • Thesis Statement – Loneliness Essay
  • Introduction – Loneliness Essay
  • Main Body – Loneliness Essay
  • Conclusion – Loneliness Essay
Thesis Statement – Loneliness Essay Loneliness is a consequence of being robbed of one’s freedom. It can be due to imprisonment, loss of liberty, or being discriminated against. Introduction – Loneliness Essay Loneliness is a social phenomenon that has been the subject of much research since time immemorial. Yet there still does not exist any solid explanation as to why some people are more prone to loneliness than others. This paper will seek to analyze this potentially debilitating condition from different perspectives. It will cover the relationship between loneliness and incarceration or loss of liberty; then it will proceed into discussing how emotions play a role in making us feel lonely; finally, it will look at how these feelings can affect our mental stability and overall well-being. Get Non-Plagiarized Custom Essay on Loneliness in USA Order Now Main Body – Loneliness Essay Loneliness is a universal feeling which has the ability to create its own culture within different societies. In detention facilities, there is a unique kind of loneliness that prevails between prisoners who are often divided into various categories and population groups. This has been described by Mandela as a consequence of being robbed of one’s freedom. The fact that it can be due to imprisonment, loss of liberty, or being discriminated against makes it even clearer why this isolation from other people occurs so frequently among detainees. In addition, when one spends time incarcerated in solitary confinement, they may become more experienced at coping with feelings of loneliness and despondency; however, these feelings do not tend to dissipate completely because living in an artificial environment cannot be compared with living out in the open. There is also a difference between feeling lonely and actually being alone; many individuals who do not feel social pressure, meaning that they are more than happy spending time on their own without any external stimulation, may still find themselves surrounded by people every day. Yet even this does not guarantee that one will escape feelings of isolation or rejection. Loneliness becomes an issue when it is chronic and experienced frequently, if only fleetingly. It can affect our psychological balance as well as our physical health because it usually initiates stress responses within the body which cause high blood pressure and prompt addiction to drugs or alcohol consumption. All these reasons may lead to decreased productivity and ultimately affect one’s ability to develop or maintain social connections. Buy Customized Essay on Loneliness At Cheapest Price Order Now Conclusion – Loneliness Essay Loneliness is a condition that we can’t always avoid, but it is something we should be aware of and try to limit. Thus, while the effects of loneliness on the individual may not be able to stimulate any significant changes in society, at least there will always remain one person more who understands what you are going through. Ultimately, it all comes down to empathy and sharing our own stories so that more people learn how to cope with this potentially dangerous emotional response. Hire USA Experts for Loneliness Essay Order Now

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This essay sample has given you some insights into the psychology of loneliness as well as suggestions for how to combat it in your own life.

Many of us find it hard to start writing an essay on general topics like loneliness. The free essay sample on loneliness is given here by the experts of Students Assignment Help to those who are assigned an essay on loneliness by professors. With the help of this sample, many ideas can easily be gathered by the college graduates to write their coursework essays.

Best essay helpers are giving to College students throughout the world through this sample. All types of essays like Argumentative Essays and persuasive essays can be written by following this example can be finished on time by the masters. If you still find it difficult to write a supreme quality essay on any topic then ask for the essay writing services from Students Assignment Help anytime.

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How to Conclude an Essay (with Examples)

Last Updated: April 3, 2023 Fact Checked

Writing a Strong Conclusion

What to avoid, brainstorming tricks.

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams and by wikiHow staff writer, Aly Rusciano . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,204,307 times.

So, you’ve written an outstanding essay and couldn’t be more proud. But now you have to write the final paragraph. The conclusion simply summarizes what you’ve already written, right? Well, not exactly. Your essay’s conclusion should be a bit more finessed than that. Luckily, you’ve come to the perfect place to learn how to write a conclusion. We’ve put together this guide to fill you in on everything you should and shouldn’t do when ending an essay. Follow our advice, and you’ll have a stellar conclusion worthy of an A+ in no time.

Things You Should Know

  • Rephrase your thesis to include in your final paragraph to bring the essay full circle.
  • End your essay with a call to action, warning, or image to make your argument meaningful.
  • Keep your conclusion concise and to the point, so you don’t lose a reader’s attention.
  • Do your best to avoid adding new information to your conclusion and only emphasize points you’ve already made in your essay.

Step 1 Start with a small transition.

  • “All in all”
  • “Ultimately”
  • “Furthermore”
  • “As a consequence”
  • “As a result”

Step 2 Briefly summarize your essay’s main points.

  • Make sure to write your main points in a new and unique way to avoid repetition.

Step 3 Rework your thesis statement into the conclusion.

  • Let’s say this is your original thesis statement: “Allowing students to visit the library during lunch improves campus life and supports academic achievement.”
  • Restating your thesis for your conclusion could look like this: “Evidence shows students who have access to their school’s library during lunch check out more books and are more likely to complete their homework.”
  • The restated thesis has the same sentiment as the original while also summarizing other points of the essay.

Step 4 End with something meaningful.

  • “When you use plastic water bottles, you pollute the ocean. Switch to using a glass or metal water bottle instead. The planet and sea turtles will thank you.”
  • “The average person spends roughly 7 hours on their phone a day, so there’s no wonder cybersickness is plaguing all generations.”
  • “Imagine walking on the beach, except the soft sand is made up of cigarette butts. They burn your feet but keep washing in with the tide. If we don’t clean up the ocean, this will be our reality.”
  • “ Lost is not only a show that changed the course of television, but it’s also a reflection of humanity as a whole.”
  • “If action isn’t taken to end climate change today, the global temperature will dangerously rise from 4.5 to 8 °F (−15.3 to −13.3 °C) by 2100.”

Step 5 Keep it short and sweet.

  • Focus on your essay's most prevalent or important parts. What key points do you want readers to take away or remember about your essay?

Step 1 Popular concluding statements

  • For instance, instead of writing, “That’s why I think that Abraham Lincoln was the best American President,” write, “That’s why Abraham Lincoln was the best American President.”
  • There’s no room for ifs, ands, or buts—your opinion matters and doesn’t need to be apologized for!

Step 6 Quotations

  • For instance, words like “firstly,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” may be great transition statements for body paragraphs but are unnecessary in a conclusion.

Step 1 Ask yourself, “So what?”

  • For instance, say you began your essay with the idea that humanity’s small sense of sense stems from space’s vast size. Try returning to this idea in the conclusion by emphasizing that as human knowledge grows, space becomes smaller.

Step 4 Think about your essay’s argument in a broader “big picture” context.

  • For example, you could extend an essay on the television show Orange is the New Black by bringing up the culture of imprisonment in America.

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

  • Always review your essay after writing it for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and don’t be afraid to revise. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1
  • Ask a friend, family member, or teacher for help if you’re stuck. Sometimes a second opinion is all you need. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1

how to end an essay about loneliness

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Put a Quote in an Essay

  • ↑ https://www.uts.edu.au/current-students/support/helps/self-help-resources/grammar/transition-signals
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/argument_papers/conclusions.html
  • ↑ http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/conclude.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
  • ↑ https://www.pittsfordschools.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=542&dataid=4677&FileName=conclusions1.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.cuyamaca.edu/student-support/tutoring-center/files/student-resources/how-to-write-a-good-conclusion.pdf
  • ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185935

About This Article

Jake Adams

To end an essay, start your conclusion with a phrase that makes it clear your essay is coming to a close, like "In summary," or "All things considered." Then, use a few sentences to briefly summarize the main points of your essay by rephrasing the topic sentences of your body paragraphs. Finally, end your conclusion with a call to action that encourages your readers to do something or learn more about your topic. In general, try to keep your conclusion between 5 and 7 sentences long. For more tips from our English co-author, like how to avoid common pitfalls when writing an essay conclusion, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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  • How to conclude an essay | Interactive example

How to Conclude an Essay | Interactive Example

Published on January 24, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay . A strong conclusion aims to:

  • Tie together the essay’s main points
  • Show why your argument matters
  • Leave the reader with a strong impression

Your conclusion should give a sense of closure and completion to your argument, but also show what new questions or possibilities it has opened up.

This conclusion is taken from our annotated essay example , which discusses the history of the Braille system. Hover over each part to see why it’s effective.

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

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Table of contents

Step 1: return to your thesis, step 2: review your main points, step 3: show why it matters, what shouldn’t go in the conclusion, more examples of essay conclusions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about writing an essay conclusion.

To begin your conclusion, signal that the essay is coming to an end by returning to your overall argument.

Don’t just repeat your thesis statement —instead, try to rephrase your argument in a way that shows how it has been developed since the introduction.

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how to end an essay about loneliness

Next, remind the reader of the main points that you used to support your argument.

Avoid simply summarizing each paragraph or repeating each point in order; try to bring your points together in a way that makes the connections between them clear. The conclusion is your final chance to show how all the paragraphs of your essay add up to a coherent whole.

To wrap up your conclusion, zoom out to a broader view of the topic and consider the implications of your argument. For example:

  • Does it contribute a new understanding of your topic?
  • Does it raise new questions for future study?
  • Does it lead to practical suggestions or predictions?
  • Can it be applied to different contexts?
  • Can it be connected to a broader debate or theme?

Whatever your essay is about, the conclusion should aim to emphasize the significance of your argument, whether that’s within your academic subject or in the wider world.

Try to end with a strong, decisive sentence, leaving the reader with a lingering sense of interest in your topic.

The easiest way to improve your conclusion is to eliminate these common mistakes.

Don’t include new evidence

Any evidence or analysis that is essential to supporting your thesis statement should appear in the main body of the essay.

The conclusion might include minor pieces of new information—for example, a sentence or two discussing broader implications, or a quotation that nicely summarizes your central point. But it shouldn’t introduce any major new sources or ideas that need further explanation to understand.

Don’t use “concluding phrases”

Avoid using obvious stock phrases to tell the reader what you’re doing:

  • “In conclusion…”
  • “To sum up…”

These phrases aren’t forbidden, but they can make your writing sound weak. By returning to your main argument, it will quickly become clear that you are concluding the essay—you shouldn’t have to spell it out.

Don’t undermine your argument

Avoid using apologetic phrases that sound uncertain or confused:

  • “This is just one approach among many.”
  • “There are good arguments on both sides of this issue.”
  • “There is no clear answer to this problem.”

Even if your essay has explored different points of view, your own position should be clear. There may be many possible approaches to the topic, but you want to leave the reader convinced that yours is the best one!

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This conclusion is taken from an argumentative essay about the internet’s impact on education. It acknowledges the opposing arguments while taking a clear, decisive position.

The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.

This conclusion is taken from a short expository essay that explains the invention of the printing press and its effects on European society. It focuses on giving a clear, concise overview of what was covered in the essay.

The invention of the printing press was important not only in terms of its immediate cultural and economic effects, but also in terms of its major impact on politics and religion across Europe. In the century following the invention of the printing press, the relatively stationary intellectual atmosphere of the Middle Ages gave way to the social upheavals of the Reformation and the Renaissance. A single technological innovation had contributed to the total reshaping of the continent.

This conclusion is taken from a literary analysis essay about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . It summarizes what the essay’s analysis achieved and emphasizes its originality.

By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Your essay’s conclusion should contain:

  • A rephrased version of your overall thesis
  • A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
  • An indication of why your argument matters

The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.

For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.

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So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.

The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.

To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
  • Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
  • Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.

To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection,  Dubliners , with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
  • Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like  60 Minutes .
  • Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise of dehumanization "; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
  • Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel  Ambiguous Adventure , by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.

Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:

  • Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
  • Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
  • Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."

Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

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The Evidence on Loneliness and What To Do About It

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As governments tell huge numbers of Americans to stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus, it’s natural for some people to experience feelings of loneliness – especially those who live alone and may go for days without seeing another human in person.

This level of social isolation is certainly unprecedented in our modern society. But there is a significant body of evidence on isolation and loneliness that can help us understand the broader effects of social distancing, and some steps we can take to mitigate them.

First, there is ample evidence that shows sustained loneliness is not simply equated with sadness or depression, but leads to larger health implications. Among older adults, loneliness increases the risk of developing  dementia ,  slows down their walking speeds , interferes with their ability to care for themselves and increases their risk of  heart disease and stroke . Loneliness is even associated with  dying earlier .

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, about a third of people living in industrialized nations experienced loneliness. Data show the condition is not influenced by income, education levels, gender or ethnicity.

So, what can we do about loneliness?  There is a large body of evidence that describes a broad range of interventions to help.  One systematic review  demonstrates that physical activity can help to reduce levels of loneliness somewhat. (Although there is some question as to whether people who are lonely simply do not exercise.) The authors also question whether it’s physical activity with other people that actually reduces loneliness. In this climate of social distancing, this could mean that going on a walk outside with a friend – of course, while maintaining the prescribed six-foot distance apart – may be an effective way to reduce loneliness.

Another meta-analysis  from the University of Chicago looked at a wide range of interventions to address loneliness. Surprisingly, interventions that involved interaction with others, receiving social support or improving social skills were not the most effective. Instead, what helped the most was therapy for a condition called maladaptive social cognition — essentially negative thoughts about self-worth and how other people perceive you. The article found this is especially true for feelings of loneliness that occur regularly over time.

Given our current crisis situation, clearly everyone who feels lonely is not suffering from maladaptive social cognition. But focusing on positive thoughts about yourself in a consistent manner may help you to feel a little less lonely.

A third meta-analysis conducted by researchers from Italy and Poland focused on loneliness interventions for older adults. It found that interventions involving technology were among the most effective ways to reduce loneliness, and that community-based art programs – such as classes and performances – were also effective at reducing loneliness.

During social distancing, connecting with friends and loved ones via technology is a viable option. Platforms such as Zoom, Facetime and Google Meet are all offering free video-conferencing services. A virtual happy hour can be a surprisingly fun way to spend an hour.

Community art programs may be trickier to pull off during the pandemic. But a Google search of online drawing classes or Broadway musicals reveals a wide variety options to pass the time. Many of these online services are currently offering these programs free of charge. If they don’t help alleviate loneliness, they may at least help pass the time.

The take-home message: Loneliness is a real problem that affects overall well-being and health. While many Americans are being asked to stay home, there are some evidence-based steps you can take to reduce feelings of loneliness.

Visit Cornell University’s  Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research’s website  for more information on our work solving human problems.

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Essay Samples on Loneliness

Technology makes us lonely: the negatives of the progress.

There’s food on the table, with many people surrounding it ready to dig into a big family dinner, but wait everyone’s heads are down. What are they doing, are they praying, or are they really invested in a very lengthy book or Epic, like Beowulf?...

  • Impact of Technology
  • Negative Impact of Technology

Social Media and Technology Makes Us Lonely and Isolated

Technology has been the holy grail that has led to increased connectivity, new frontiers of business and economics and improved lives. On the other hand, it has also led to intense misery and contributed to the destruction of lives. Today, I will present facts and...

Crippling Sense Of Loneliness In Haruki Murakami's Novel Kafka On The Shore

In Haruki Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore,' loneliness consumes the main character throughout the novel. Kafka Tamura's loneliness is a constant inner battle that not only affects him but the people he meets along his journey through the mountainside town of Takamatsu. Kafka has an...

How Characters in the Novel Of Mice and Men Cope with Their Loneliness

The theme of loneliness is presented in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. In the novel Of Mice and Men, loneliness is an important emotion that often drives the characters to behave in a different manner to usual. Steinbeck uses characters, some of the most...

  • Great Depression
  • Of Mice and Men

Loneliness And Depression In Social Media And Spider Poem

Social network connects all the people around the world. This connection makes everyone feel together no matter how far they are and this connection is strong like spiders web. The web links the people powerfully ıt provides worldwide connectivity. Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...

  • A Noiseless Patient Spider

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Similarities Between Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Novel Between The World and Me and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: Theme of the Feeling of Alienation

In both Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy contain an underlying theme of feeling as if both J.D. Vance nor Ta-Nehisi Coates do not belong in the place they were raised. However, one is more mental the other is...

  • Between The World and Me

Ways and Methods of Alleviating Homesickness

With the recent increase in globalization and international mobility, overseas settlements for work or study are now more common than ever. At the same time, the number of these population is still increasing. However, the process of adapting to the new environment is essential for...

  • Homesickness

Alienation and Loneliness in The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Poe like McCarthy does not straight out inform the readers of facts, they leave out details that are deemed unnecessary to the theme and the main idea of the story. However, most ideas can be inferred due to the clues they leave in their language....

The Effect of Loneliness on College Students

Starting college is truly a wonderful time and a unique experience. You meet new people and face new challenges which is very exciting but all these changes can be tough to cope up with. Some students find it extremely hard and challenging to fit in...

The Theme of Loneliness in John Steinbeck Book Of Mice and Men

Loneliness is something that many people experience, surprisingly. Especially in the book, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck which was written in the 1930’s during the Great Depression when everyone was suffering financially and emotionally. It doesn’t matter who they are, people from all...

  • John Steinbeck

How to Deal With Loneliness in a Healthy Way

Everyone gets lonely at one point or another in their lives. Loneliness is a normal emotion we feel when we disconnect ourselves from others either emotionally or physically. Truth be told, even though loneliness is a normal emotion, it is no easy to live with...

  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Mental Illness

The Relation of Social Isolation to Crime Commiting

Human beings along with many other species are known to be included in a behavioral group referred to as “social creatures”. The marks of this group include family units, tribes, and friendly communication or interaction with other members- either within the same species or another...

  • Criminology
  • Social Isolation

Postcolonial elements in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger

Postcolonial literature deals with various aspects including class differences and the representation of the subaltern or the voiceless. Lack of opportunities, deprivation of basic necessities, loneliness in a crowded world, alienation in one’s own country, subordination at all levels and being silent and resigned to...

  • The White Tiger

Iinitial Life of Robinson Crusoe - Great Novel by Daniel Defoe in 1719

Robinson Crusoe was composed by Daniel Defoe in 1719. It recounts the tale of the life of Robinson Crusoe, a man destined to center life society. He spurned along these lines of life and looked to pick up wealth by turning into a mariner, investigating...

  • Robinson Crusoe

Loneliness, Mindfulness, and Academic Achievements: A Moderation Effect

Introduction The authors of the article Loneliness, Mindfulness, and Academic Achievements: A Moderation Effect among First-Year College Students are Eyal Rosenstreich and Malka Margalit. Both the authors of this article are professors at Tel-Aviv University. They're both known for the article that this review is...

  • Academic Achievements
  • Mindfulness

An Analysis of the Literary Techniques Used to Depict Sadness in Bronte's Cold in the Earth

How does Emily Bronte convey a sense of sadness in Cold in the Earth? This poem is about the loss of her husband, and the emotional and physical pain it has inflicted on her. This poem is a lament and therefore has a consistent sense...

Of Mice And Men By John Steinbeck: A Theme Of Loneliness

Loneliness is a human feeling, a state of mind and a place in which some people live. If someone is feeling unhappy, it could be because of his or her lack of friends and socialization. Likely that person experiences loneliness. In the novel Of Mice...

Solitude In Traveling: Being Wanderlust

“Travelling has taught me better. Sometimes it is the delayed flights, flat tires, orthodox Indian families or bumpy bullock cart rides. Every bit of my journey has made me a better person.” Wanderlust - A very popular hashtag now mostly making an appearance on people’s...

Best topics on Loneliness

1. Technology Makes Us Lonely: The Negatives of the Progress

2. Social Media and Technology Makes Us Lonely and Isolated

3. Crippling Sense Of Loneliness In Haruki Murakami’s Novel Kafka On The Shore

4. How Characters in the Novel Of Mice and Men Cope with Their Loneliness

5. Loneliness And Depression In Social Media And Spider Poem

6. Similarities Between Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Novel Between The World and Me and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: Theme of the Feeling of Alienation

7. Ways and Methods of Alleviating Homesickness

8. Alienation and Loneliness in The Road by Cormac McCarthy

9. The Effect of Loneliness on College Students

10. The Theme of Loneliness in John Steinbeck Book Of Mice and Men

11. How to Deal With Loneliness in a Healthy Way

12. The Relation of Social Isolation to Crime Commiting

13. Postcolonial elements in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger

14. Iinitial Life of Robinson Crusoe – Great Novel by Daniel Defoe in 1719

15. Loneliness, Mindfulness, and Academic Achievements: A Moderation Effect

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Essay On Loneliness

Introduction: Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. It refers to a state of being alone. It is a moment when one feels sad because of being cut off from one’s near and dear ones either physically or psychologically. The extreme case of physical loneliness would be solitary confinement in a prison or being marooned on an island like Robinson Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk, etc. It has also been described as social pain a psychological mechanism meant to motivate an individual to seek social connections.

Loneliness is to be clearly distinguished from solitude as unlike the latter, it is always an unwelcomed feeling to which one is subject out of some external or inner compulsions. It is beyond one’s control whereas many persons would occasionally prefer enjoying solitude, far from the madding crowds.

Loneliness is often defined in terms of one’s connectedness to others, or more specifically as “the unpleasant experience that occurs when a person’s network of social relations is deficient in some important way”.

Grounds of Loneliness: Man faces an increasing incidence of loneliness because of the fast-changing social and economic conditions of modern times. It is a comparatively recent phenomenon: Close quite primitive groups bring out a precarious existence by hunting wild animals or eating wild fruits would not experience loneliness as they would always engage collectively in life-supporting activities.

Later settled agricultural communities were land-based and had a little occasion for feeling loneliness for the individuals who had strong ties with their families and village communities. They were alone neither in their joys nor in their sorrows as both the conditions brought them together for intensifying the joys and reducing the sorrow by sharing.

Loneliness can also be seen as a social phenomenon, capable of spreading like a disease. When one person in a group begins to feel lonely, this feeling can spread to others, increasing everybody’s risk for feelings of loneliness. People can feel lonely even when they are surrounded by other people.

Individual’s levels of loneliness typically remain more or less constant during adulthood until 75 to 80 years of age, when they increase somewhat. Prolonged loneliness is associated with depression, poor social support, neuroticism, and introversion. Studies have shown that loneliness puts people at risk for physical disease and that it may contribute to a shortened life span.

The Risks of Loneliness: Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. It can be a risk factor for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, among other critical diseases. Lonely people are also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

At the root, isolation compromises immunity increases the production of stress hormones and is harmful to sleep. All of this feeds chronic inflammation, which lowers immunity to the degree that lonely people even suffer more from the common cold. Loneliness can be a chronic stress condition that ages the body and causes damage to overall well-being.

Psychological Aspect: Loneliness may often grow out of some psychological compulsions. A person may suffer from an inferiority complex that he is unwanted or unloved. He/she will naturally avoid routine contact with others for fear of being repulsed or rebuffed. He/she will feel secure only when he is alone. He/she who cannot enjoy a company cannot enjoy real happiness which consists mostly of interaction with others or in getting appreciation or approval from others.

Conclusion: Loneliness is both pleasing and boring. It is correlated with social anxiety, social inhibition (shyness), sadness, hostility, distrust, and low self-esteem, characteristics that hamper one’s ability to interact in skillful and rewarding ways. Circumstantial loneliness causes no pains but forcide loneliness is bordom. But the person who has seen death from close quarters finds the true and real meaning of life. Similarly a person, who has undergone the experience of loneliness for a substantional time, keenly feels the joy of social interaction such a person realizes the true dimension of security and relaxation, one experiences in the company of one’s family members or dear friends. Experiences of loneliness strengthen social ties and convert even loners into social beings.

Importance of Rainy Season

Television broadcasting under government control, a journey by air, forests – a gift of nature, 54 piscium b – a cool methane dwarf star, a large year-round ozone hole over the tropics has been discovered, bill of lading, ladies who afterward embraced their partner had lower cortisol responses to stress, iphone app development project, report on consumer credit scheme of prime bank limited, latest post, flyback transformer (fbt), global catastrophic risk, astronomers identify the brightest and fastest-growing quasar, the gibraltar arc is moving westward from the mediterranean into the atlantic, a new geological study reveals that scandinavia originated in greenland, mid-ocean ridge (mor).

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Psychology of loneliness

Our Psychology of Loneliness report looks at how we can use psychological approaches to address how loneliness can make people think and feel.

Loneliness is an emotional response that many of us are familiar with. Loneliness can become chronic if it is seen as something we cannot change. Believing that loneliness is part of who we are, and that we are to blame for it in some way, can make loneliness harder to shift.

People often use words like anxiety, fear, shame and helplessness to describe how loneliness makes them feel. These powerful emotions can influence how we behave and can make people wary of social situations or perceive interactions with others more negatively.

Psychology of Loneliness aims to help shift the current focus on interventions for loneliness from being those that simply promote opportunities for people to come together, toward those that address how loneliness affects how people think and feel. This report provides a first step on that journey.

The report highlighted the need to:

  • develop public health messaging that emphasises the importance of meaningful social relationships in later life with a call to action to pay attention to them as we age.
  • incorporate the learnings on how thoughts and feelings influence people’s experience of loneliness within the range of existing interventions.
  • increase one-to-one active listening and counselling support, particularly in relation to bereavement and also depression.

More information

Our Psychology of Loneliness report addresses the current gap in our understanding of the psychological and emotional aspects of loneliness.

Watch the launch event of our Psychology of Loneliness report.

The psychology of loneliness: why it matters and what we can do (July 2020) A blog written by our previous Head of Research outlines why understanding and reviewing the evidence base on the psychology of loneliness matters

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Loneliness made clear: Key facts about loneliness

Understanding loneliness: Training for individuals

Feeling lonely? Ideas and advice

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Loneliness, loss and regret: what getting old really feels like – new study

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how to end an essay about loneliness

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Paula* had not been living in her retirement apartment for very long when I arrived for our interview. She welcomed me into a modern, comfortable home. We sat in the living room, taking in the impressive view from her balcony and our conversation unfolded.

Paula, 72, told me how four years ago she’d lost her husband. She had been his carer for over ten years, as he slowly declined from a degenerative condition.

She was his nurse, driver, carer, cook and “bottle-washer”. Paula said she got used to people always asking after her husband and forgetting about her. She told me: “You are almost invisible … you kind of go in the shadows as the carer.”

While she had obviously been finding life challenging, it was also abundantly clear that she loved her husband dearly and had struggled profoundly to cope with his death. I asked Paula how long it took for her to find her bearings, and she replied:

Nearly four years. And I suddenly woke up one day and thought, you idiot, you are letting your life fade away, you have got to do something.

There were photographs of Paula’s late husband on the wall behind her. I noticed a picture of him before his illness took hold. They seemed to be at some sort of party, or wedding, holding glasses of champagne. He had his arm around her. They looked happy. There was a picture of her husband in a wheelchair too. In this picture they both looked older. But still happy.

how to end an essay about loneliness

This story is part of Conversation Insights The Insights team generates long-form journalism and is working with academics from different backgrounds who have been engaged in projects to tackle societal and scientific challenges.

Losing her husband had left Paula with an irreplaceable void in her life that she was still working out how to fill. In our interview, I glimpsed the extent of the deep, unavoidable sense of loneliness that losing a spouse can create for the bereaved partner – a painful theme our team would revisit many times in our interviews with older people.

The Loneliness Project

The pandemic brought the longstanding issue of loneliness and isolation in the lives of older people back into the public consciousness. When COVID-19 hit, we had only just completed the 80 in-depth interviews which formed the dataset for what we called The Loneliness Project – a large-scale, in-depth exploration of how older people experience loneliness and what it means for them.

I (Sam) am a psychologist with a particular interest in exploring human relationships across the lifespan. Chao, meanwhile, is a research associate based in the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath. His research focuses on bereavement experiences and exploring emotional loneliness of people living in retirement communities. For the last two years, we’ve been working on the Loneliness Project with a small research team.

Above all, the project sought to listen to older people’s experiences. We were privileged to hear many people, like Paula, talk to us about their lives, and how growing old and ageing creates unique challenges in relation to loneliness and isolation.

The research – now published in Ageing and Society – generated over 130 hours of conversations and we started to make sense of what our participants told us with an animated film.

We found that ageing brings about a series of inevitable losses that deeply challenge people’s sense of connection to the world around them. Loneliness can often be oversimplified or reduced to how many friends a person has or how often they see their loved ones.

But a particular focus for us was to better understand what underpins feelings of loneliness in older people on a deeper level. Researchers have used the term “existential loneliness” to describe this deeper sense of feeling “separated from the world” – as though there is an insurmountable gap between oneself and the rest of society. Our objective was to listen carefully to how people experienced and responded to this.

The older people in our study helped us to better understand how they felt growing old had affected their sense of connecting to the world – and there were some core themes.

For many, ageing brought about an inevitable accumulation of losses. Put simply, some of the people we spoke to had lost things that had previously been a major part of feeling connected to something bigger than themselves.

Loss of a spouse or long-term partner (over half of our sample had lost their long-term spouse) was particularly palpable and underlined the deep-rooted sense of loneliness associated with losing someone irreplaceable. Reflecting on the loss of her husband, Paula said:

When he was gone, I didn’t know where I fitted anymore. I didn’t know who I was anymore because I wasn’t [upset] … You just existed. Went shopping, when you needed food. I didn’t want to see people. I didn’t go anywhere.

Lone elderly woman shops in a supermarket.

There was evidence of how painful this irreplaceable void was for people. Douglas, 86, lost his wife five years before speaking to us. He tried his best to articulate the sense of hopelessness, despair – and sheer loss of meaning – it had created for him. He said it hadn’t stopped being difficult, despite the passing of time, adding: “They say it gets better. It never gets better.”

Douglas explained how he never stops thinking about his wife. “It’s hard for people to understand a lot of the time,” he said.

People also talked about how learning to live in the world again felt alien, terrifying and, frequently, impossible. For Amy, 76, relearning how to do the “little things in life” was a lonely and challenging experience.

It took me a long time … just to go down for breakfast on my own … I’d have to bring a paper or a book to sit with. And never ever, I would never, ever go and have a cup of coffee on my own in a coffee shop. So, I literally ‘learnt’ to do that. And that was a biggy, just going to a coffee shop and having a coffee.

Amy said going into busy places on her own was hard because she thought everyone was looking at her. “I would always do it with Tony, my husband, whatever … But to do it on your own, a biggy. It’s stupid, I know, but anyway, hey ho.”

For Peter, 83, the loss of his wife had created a painful void around feelings of touch and physical intimacy that had always made him feel less alone.

I suppose all my life sex has been lovemaking. I mean, we are really getting personal now, but when my wife died, I missed that so, so much. It’s much more enjoyable in old age, you know, because, I mean, if I said it to you you’d think oh good grief, that horrible old body and all the spots and bumps and cuts and wounds and … takes off a wooden leg and … takes out the eye. Sorry [laughs] … But it’s not anything like that because you know you are in the same boat … you get round it, some peculiar way, you accept it all.

Another man, Philip, 73, also described the pain in this loss of intimacy. He said:

At my wife’s funeral, I said the one thing I will miss most is a kiss goodnight. And blow me, afterwards, one of our friends came round, and she said, ‘well, we can send each other kisses if you like but by text every night’, and would you believe, we still are, we still do.

With the very old people we talked with, there was a sense that loss of close and meaningful connections was cumulative. Alice, 93, had lost her first husband, her subsequent partner, her siblings, her friends and, most recently, her only son. With a sense of sadness and weariness, she explained:

You know, underneath it all I wouldn’t mind leaving this world. Everyone has died and I think I’m lonely.

Researchers at Malmö University, Sweden, have described an acute sense of existential loneliness in very old age, that is partly a reflection of an accumulated loss of close connections.

The study found that the result can be understood as if the older person “is in a process of letting go of life. This process involves the body, in that the older person is increasingly limited in his or her physical abilities. The older person’s long term relationships are gradually lost and finally the process results in the older person increasingly withdrawing into him or herself and turning off the outside world”.

‘A stiff upper lip’

Studies of loneliness have highlighted how an inability to communicate can bring about a feeling that “the soul is incarcerated in an insufferable prison”.

This was reflected in our study too. Many of our participants said they had trouble communicating because they simply didn’t have the tools required to convey such complicated emotions and deeper feelings. This led us to contemplate why some older people might not have developed such essential emotional tools.

Research has suggested that older people born in the first half of the 20th century were unwittingly indoctrinated into the concept of the “stiff upper lip”. Through most of their lives – including wartime, peacetime employment, conscription to military service, and family life – there was a requirement to maintain high levels of cognitive control and low levels of emotional expression.

Some of our participants seemed to be implicitly aware of this phenomenon and how it had shaped their generation. Polly, 73, explained it succinctly for us:

If you don’t think about it, if you don’t give it words, then you don’t have to feel the pain … How long is it since men cried in public? Never cry. Big boys don’t cry. That is certainly what was said when I was growing up. Different generation.

People said that wartime childhoods had “hardened them”, led to them suppressing deeper feelings and feeling the need to maintain a sense of composure and control.

For example, Margaret, 86, was a “latchkey child” during the war. Her parents went out at 7am and she had to get up and make her own breakfast at the age of nine. She then had to catch a tram and a bus to get to school and when she got back at night her parents would still be out, working late.

So I used to light the fire, get the dinner ready. But when you are a child, you don’t think about it, you just do it. I mean, no way did I count myself as a neglected child, it was just the way it was in the war, you just had to do it …“

Margaret said it was "just an attitude”. She went to 11 schools, travelled around the country because of the war and had nothing really to do with other people. She added: “I think it makes you a little bit hard … I think sometimes I am a hard person because of it.”

As interviewers who have grown up in a culture that is perhaps more permissive of emotional expression than had been the case for many of the people we interviewed, it was sometimes difficult for us to witness how deep-rooted people’s inability to express their suffering could be.

Douglas was clearly struggling deeply after the death of his wife. But he lacked the tools and relationships to help him work through it. He said he had nobody who was close to him who he could confide in. “People never confided in my family. It was different growing up then,” he added.

Heavy burdens

The burden of loneliness for older people is intimately connected to what they are alone with. As we reach the end of our lives, we frequently carry heavy burdens that have accumulated along the way, such as feelings of regret, betrayal and rejection. And the wounds from past relationships can haunt people all their lives.

Gerontologist professor, Malcolm Johnson, has used the term “ biographical pain ” to describe psychological and spiritual suffering in the old and frail that involves profoundly painful recollection and reliving of experienced wrongs, self-promises and regretted actions.

He has written that: “Living to be old is still considered to be a great benefit. But dying slowly and painfully, with too much time to reflect and with little or no prospect of redressing harms, deficits, deceits, and emotional pain, has few redeeming features.”

Many of those we spoke to told us how hard it was to be left alone with unresolved pain. For example Georgina, 83, said she learned in early childhood that she was “a bad person … stupid, ugly”. She remembered her brother, as an older man, dying in hospital, “connected to all these machines”. However, she could neither forgive nor forget the abuse he had inflicted upon her during childhood. “My faith told me to forgive him but, ultimately, he scratched me in my soul as a kid,” she added.

People carried memories and wounds from the past that they wanted to talk about, to make sense of and to share. Susan, 83, and Bob, 76, talked about painful and difficult memories from their early family lives.

Susan spoke about how she had a nervous breakdown when her family “disowned” her after she fell pregnant at the age of 17. She said:

I come from this secret family. We all had to present as expected. If you didn’t, you were out, and that was the bottom line. I look back on my life and I wonder that I survived.

While Bob remembered a life of violence at the hands of his father. “I copped so many hidings from him. Then one night … my old man had a bad habit. He would get up and walk past you and smack you in the ribs. I sensed it coming, I was out of my chair in a flash, I caught him, crossed his hands over his wrists, and jammed my knuckle into his Adam’s Apple. That was family life,” he said.

Janet, 75, explained to us that she felt what was lacking from her life was a space where she could talk about, make sense of, and reflect on the biographical pain she had accumulated.

This is what I miss a lot, a private space to talk … All my life I’ve suffered … and some things I do find very hard … With everything that’s gone wrong, I would like to talk to somebody, no advice, I want to let off steam, make sense of it all, I suppose. But it doesn’t happen.

Your life mattered

Thinking about how older people can be supported must involve a fuller understanding of what loneliness really means for them. Some of our own efforts have focused on ways of helping older people retain a sense that they are valued in the world and that they matter.

For example, the Extraordinary Lives Project sought to listen to older people’s recollections, wisdom and reflections. Sharing these recollections with others, including younger generations, has been mutually beneficial and helped older people to feel that the lives they have lived counted for something.

There is also a need to consider how to support older people in relation to coping with some of the inevitable losses ageing creates that threaten their sense of connection to the world. Organisations seeking to connect people going through these struggles can play a role in developing a sense of “coping together”.

Such organisations already exist in relation to support for widows , provision of spaces like death cafes to talk about death and dying and improving access to and awareness of psychological and emotional therapies for older people.

So support is out there but it is often fragmented and difficult to find. A core challenge for the future is to create living environments in which these mechanisms of support are embedded and integrated into older people’s communities.

Listening to all these experiences helped us to appreciate that loneliness in later life runs deep – much deeper than we might think. We learned that growing old and approaching the end of life create unique sets of circumstances such as loss, physical deterioration and biographical pain and regret that can give rise to a unique sense of disconnection from the world.

Yet people can and did find their way through the significant challenges and disruptions that ageing had posed them. Before I (Sam) left her apartment, Paula made me a cup of tea and a ham sandwich and told me:

It’s funny, you know, I had a building which I had inherited, and I had some money in the bank but who was I, what was I anymore? That was my main challenge. But now, four years later, I’ve moved to a retirement village and I’m noticing there’s just a little thrill associated with being able to do exactly as I please – and if people say, ‘Oh but you should do this,’ I go, ‘No, I shouldn’t!’

*All names in this article have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved.

how to end an essay about loneliness

For you: more from our Insights series :

Can’t face running? Have a hot bath or a sauna – research shows they offer some similar benefits

A culture of silence and stigma around emotions dominates policing, officer diaries reveal

The double lives of gay men in China’s Hainan province

To hear about new Insights articles, join the hundreds of thousands of people who value The Conversation’s evidence-based news. Subscribe to our newsletter .

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Theme of Loneliness, Isolation, & Alienation in Literature with Examples

Humans are social creatures. Most of us enjoy communication and try to build relationships with others. It’s no wonder that the inability to be a part of society often leads to emotional turmoil.

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World literature has numerous examples of characters who are disconnected from their loved ones or don’t fit into the social norms. Stories featuring themes of isolation and loneliness often describe a quest for happiness or explore the reasons behind these feelings.

In this article by Custom-Writing.org , we will:

  • discuss isolation and loneliness in literary works;
  • cite many excellent examples;
  • provide relevant quotations.

🏝️ Isolation Theme in Literature

  • 🏠 Theme of Loneliness
  • 👽 Theme of Alienation
  • Frankenstein
  • The Metamorphosis
  • Of Mice and Men
  • ✍️ Essay Topics

🔍 References

Isolation is a state of being detached from other people, either physically or emotionally. It may have positive and negative connotations:

  • In a positive sense, isolation can be a powerful source of creativity and independence.
  • In negative terms , it can cause mental suffering and difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

The picture enumerates literary themes related to being alone.

Theme of Isolation and Loneliness: Difference

As you can see, isolation can be enjoyable in certain situations. That’s how it differs from loneliness : a negative state in which a person feels uncomfortable and emotionally down because of a lack of social interactions . In other words, isolated people are not necessarily lonely.

Isolation Theme Characteristics with Examples

Now, let’s examine isolation as a literary theme. It often appears in stories of different genres and has various shades of meaning. We’ll explain the different uses of this theme and provide examples from literature.

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Forced vs. Voluntary Isolation in Literature

Isolation can be voluntary or happen for external reasons beyond the person’s control. The main difference lies in the agent who imposes isolation on the person:

  • If someone decides to be alone and enjoys this state of solitude, it’s voluntary isolation . The poetry of Emily Dickinson is a prominent example.
  • Forced isolation often acts as punishment and leads to detrimental emotional consequences. This form of isolation doesn’t depend on the character’s will, such as in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter .

Physical vs. Emotional Isolation in Literature

Aside from forced and voluntary, isolation can be physical or emotional:

The picture shows the types of isolation in literature.

  • Isolation at the physical level makes the character unable to reach out to other people, such as Robinson Crusoe being stranded on an island.
  • Emotional isolation is an inner state of separation from other people. It also involves unwillingness or inability to build quality relationships. A great example is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye .

These two forms are often interlinked, like in A Rose for Emily . The story’s titular character is isolated from the others both physically and emotionally .

Symbols of Isolation in Literature

In literary works dedicated to emotional isolation, authors often use physical artifacts as symbols. For example, the moors in Wuthering Heights or the room in The Yellow Wallpaper are means of the characters’ physical isolation. They also symbolize a much deeper divide between the protagonists and the people around them.

🏠 Theme of Loneliness in Literature

Loneliness is often used as a theme in stories of people unable to build relationships with others. Their state of mind always comes with sadness and a low self-esteem. Naturally, it causes profound emotional suffering.

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We will examine how the theme of loneliness functions in literature. But first, let’s see how it differs from its positive counterpart: solitude.

Solitude vs. Loneliness: The Difference

Loneliness theme: history & examples.

The modern concept of loneliness is relatively new. It first emerged in the 16 th century and has undergone many transformations since then.

  • The first formal mention of loneliness appeared in George Milton’s Paradise Lost in the 17 th century. There are also many references to loneliness in Shakespeare’s works.
  • Later on, after the Industrial Revolution , the theme got more popular. During that time, people started moving to large cities. As a result, they were losing bonds with their families and hometowns. Illustrative examples of that period are Gothic novels and the works of Charles Dickens .
  • According to The New Yorker , the 20 th century witnessed a broad spread of loneliness due to the rise of Capitalism. Philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus explored existential loneliness, influencing numerous authors. The absurdist writings of Kafka and Beckett also played an essential role in reflecting the isolation felt by people in Capitalist societies. Sylvia Plath has masterfully explored mental health struggles related to this condition in The Bell Jar (you can learn more about it in our The Bell Jar analysis .)

👽 Theme of Alienation in Literature

Another facet of being alone that is often explored in literature is alienation . Let’s see how this concept differs from those we discussed previously.

Alienation vs. Loneliness: Difference

While loneliness is more about being on your own and lacking connection, alienation means involuntary estrangement and a lack of sympathy from society. In other words, alienated people don’t fit their community, thus lacking a sense of belonging.

Isolation vs. Alienation: The Difference

Theme of alienation vs. identity in literature.

There is a prominent connection between alienation and a loss of identity. It often results from a character’s self-search in a hostile society with alien ideas and values. These characters often differ from the dominant majority, so the community treats them negatively. Such is the case with Mrs. Dalloway from Woolf’s eponymous novel.

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Writers with unique, non-conforming identity are often alienated during their lifetime. Their distinct mindset sets them apart from their social circle. Naturally, it creates discomfort and relationship problems. These experiences are often reflected in their works, such as in James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man .

Alienation in Modernism

Alienation as a theme is mainly associated with Modernism . It’s not surprising, considering that the 20 th century witnessed fundamental changes in people’s lifestyle. Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution couldn’t help eroding the quality of human bonding and the depth of relationships.

how to end an essay about loneliness

It’s also vital to mention that the two World Wars introduced even greater changes in human relationships. People got more locked up emotionally in order to withstand the war trauma and avoid further turmoil. Consequently, the theme of alienation and comradeship found reflection in the works of Ernest Hemingway , Erich Maria Remarque , Norman Mailer, and Rebecca West, among others.

📚 Books about Loneliness and Isolation: Quotes & Examples

Loneliness and isolation themes are featured prominently in many of the world’s greatest literary works. Here we’ll analyze several well-known examples: Frankenstein, Of Mice and Men, and The Metamorphosis.

Theme of Isolation & Alienation in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is among the earliest depictions of loneliness in modern literature. It shows the depth of emotional suffering that alienation can impose.

Victor Frankenstein , a talented scientist, creates a monster from the human body parts. The monster becomes the loneliest creature in the world. Seeing that his master hates him and wouldn’t become his friend, he ruined everything Victor held dear. He was driven by revenge, trying to drive him into the same despair.

The novel contains many references to emotional and physical alienation. It also explores the distinction between voluntary and involuntary isolation:

  • The monster is involuntarily driven into an emotionally devastating state of alienation.
  • Victor imposes voluntary isolation on himself after witnessing the crimes of his creature.

To learn more about the representation of loneliness and isolation in the novel, check out our article on themes in Frankenstein .

Frankenstein Quotes about Isolation

Here are a couple of quotes from Frankenstein directly related to the theme of isolation and loneliness:

How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and snow…I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil. I have no friend. Frankenstein , Letter 2

In this quote, Walton expresses his loneliness and desire for company. He uses frost and snow as symbols to refer to his isolation. Perhaps a heart-warming relationship could melt the ice surrounding him.

I believed myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers. Frankenstein , Chapter 3

This quote is related to Victor’s inability to make friends and function as a regular member of society. He also misses his friends and relatives in Ingolstadt, which causes him further discomfort.

I, who had ever been surrounded by amiable companions, continually engaged in endeavouring to bestow mutual pleasure—I was now alone. Frankenstein , Chapter 3

In this quote, Victor shares his fear of loneliness. As a person who used to spend most of his time in social activity among people, Victor feared the solitude that awaited him in Ingolstadt.

Isolation & Alienation in The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis is an enigmatic masterpiece by Franz Kafka, telling a story of a young man Gregor. He is alienated at work and home by his demanding, disrespectful family. He lacks deep, rewarding relationships in his life. As a result, he feels profound loneliness.

The picture says that the main character in The Metamorphosis was isolated both emotionally and physically.

Gregor’s family isolates him both as a human and an insect, refusing to recognize his personhood. Gregor’s stay in confinement is also a reflection of his broader alienation from society, resulting from his self-perception as a parasite.  To learn more about it, feel free to read our article on themes in The Metamorphosis .

The Metamorphosis: Isolation Quotes

Let’s analyze several quotes from The Metamorphosis to see how Kafka approached the theme of isolation.

The upset of doing business is much worse than the actual business in the home office, and, besides, I’ve got the torture of traveling, worrying about changing trains, eating miserable food at all hours, constantly seeing new faces, no relationships that last or get more intimate. The Metamorphosis , Part 1

In this fragment, Gregor’s lifestyle is described with a couple of strokes. It shows that he lived an empty, superficial life without meaningful relationships.

Well, leaving out the fact that the doors were locked, should he really call for help? In spite of all his miseries, he could not repress a smile at this thought. The Metamorphosis , Part 1

This quote shows how Gregor feels isolated even before anyone else can see him as an insect. He knows that being different will inevitably affect his life and his relationships with his family. So, he prefers to confine himself to voluntary isolation instead of seeking help.

He thought back on his family with deep emotion and love. His conviction that he would have to disappear was, if possible, even firmer than his sister’s. The Metamorphosis , Part 3

This final paragraph of Kafka’s story reveals the human nature of Gregor. It also shows the depth of his suffering in isolation after turning into a vermin. He reconciles with his metamorphosis and agrees to disappear from this world. Eventually, he vanishes from his family’s troubled memories.

Theme of Loneliness in Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men is a touching novella by John Steinbeck examining the intricacies of laborers’ relationships on a ranch. It’s a snapshot of class and race relations that delves into the depths of human loneliness. Steinbeck shows how this feeling makes people mean, reckless, and cold.

Many characters in this story suffer from being alienated from the community:

  • Crooks is ostracized because of his race, living in a separate shabby house as a misfit.
  • George also suffers from forced alienation because he takes care of the mentally disabled Lennie.
  • Curley’s wife is another character suffering from loneliness. This feeling drives her to despair. She seeks the warmth of human relationships in the hands of Lennie, which causes her accidental death.

Isolation Quotes: Of Mice and Men

Now, let’s analyze a couple of quotes from Of Mice and Men to see how the author approached the theme of loneliness.

Guys like us who work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world, they ain’t got no family, they don’t belong no place. Of Mice and Men , Section 1

In this quote, Steinbeck describes several dimensions of isolation suffered by his characters:

  • They are physically isolated , working on large farms where they may not meet a single person for weeks.
  • They have no chances for social communication and relationship building, thus remaining emotionally isolated without a life partner.
  • They can’t develop a sense of belonging to the place where they work; it’s another person’s property.
Candy looked for help from face to face. Of Mice and Men , Section 3

Candy’s loneliness on the ranch becomes highly pronounced during his conflict with Carlson. The reason is that he is an old man afraid of being “disposed of.” The episode is an in-depth look into a society that doesn’t cherish human relationships, focusing only on a person’s practical utility. 

I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely. Of Mice and Men , Chapter 5

This quote expresses the depth of Curley’s wife’s loneliness. She doesn’t have anyone with whom she would be able to talk, aside from her husband. Curley is also not an appropriate companion, as he treats his wife rudely and carelessly. As a result of her loneliness, she falls into deeper frustration.

✍️ Essay on Loneliness and Isolation: Topics & Ideas

If you’ve got a task to write an essay about loneliness and isolation, it’s vital to pick the right topic. You can explore how these feelings are covered in literature or focus on their real-life manifestations. Here are some excellent topic suggestions for your inspiration:

  • Cross-national comparisons of people’s experience of loneliness and isolation.
  • Social isolation , loneliness, and all-cause mortality among the elderly.
  • Public health consequences of extended social isolation .
  • Impact of social isolation on young people’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Connections between social isolation and depression.
  • Interventions for reducing social isolation and loneliness among older people.
  • Loneliness and social isolation among rural area residents.
  • The effect of social distancing rules on perceived loneliness.
  • How does social isolation affect older people’s functional status?
  • Video calls as a measure for reducing social isolation.
  • Isolation, loneliness, and otherness in Frankenstein .
  • The unique combination of addiction and isolation in Frankenstein .
  • Exploration of solitude in Hernan Diaz’ In the Distance .
  •  Artificial isolation and voluntary seclusion in Against Nature .
  • Different layers of isolation in George Eliot’s Silas Marner .
  • Celebration of self-imposed solitude in Emily Dickinson’s works.
  • Buddhist aesthetics of solitude in Stephen Batchelor’s The Art of Solitude .
  • Loneliness of childhood in Charles Dickens’s works.
  • Moby-Dick : Loneliness in the struggle.
  • Medieval literature about loneliness and social isolation.

Now you know everything about the themes of isolation, loneliness, and alienation in fiction and can correctly identify and interpret them. What is your favorite literary work focusing on any of these themes? Tell us in the comments!

❓ Themes of Loneliness and Isolation FAQs

Isolation is a popular theme in poetry. The speakers in such poems often reflect on their separation from others or being away from their loved ones. Metaphorically, isolation may mean hiding unshared emotions. The magnitude of the feeling can vary from light blues to depression.

In his masterpiece Of Mice and Men , John Steinbeck presents loneliness in many tragic ways. The most alienated characters in the book are Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife. Most of them were eventually destroyed by the negative consequences of their loneliness.

The Catcher in the Rye uses many symbols as manifestations of Holden’s loneliness. One prominent example is an image of his dead brother Allie. He’s the person Holden wants to bond with but can’t because he is gone. Holden also perceives other people as phony or corny, thus separating himself from his peers.

Beloved is a work about the deeply entrenched trauma of slavery that finds its manifestation in later generations. Characters of Beloved prefer self-isolation and alienation from others to avoid emotional pain.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World , all people must conform to society’s rules to be accepted. Those who don’t fit in that established order and feel their individuality are erased from society.

  • What Is Solitude?: Psychology Today
  • Loneliness in Literature: Springer Link
  • What Literature and Language Tell Us about the History of Loneliness: Scroll.in
  • On Isolation and Literature: The Millions
  • 10 Books About Loneliness: Publishers Weekly
  • Alienation: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Isolation and Revenge: Where Victor Frankenstein Went Wrong: University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • On Isolation: Gale
  • Top 10 Books About Loneliness: The Guardian
  • Emily Dickinson and the Creative “Solitude of Space:” Psyche
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How to Cope With Loneliness

Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

how to end an essay about loneliness

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

how to end an essay about loneliness

If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health condition, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database .

Virtually everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. The feeling can be especially noticeable around the holidays, Valentine's Day , birthdays , and times of extreme stress.

The sheer number of adults in the United States who feel lonely is quite large—in a January 2020 survey of 10,000 adults by Cigna, 61% of those surveyed said they felt lonely. However, people don’t always talk about feelings of loneliness and don’t always know what to do with these feelings.

Other than being emotionally painful, loneliness can impact people in many ways:

  • Depression : A 2021 study published in Lancet Psychiatry found associations between loneliness and depressive symptoms in a group of adults 50 years old and older. Research also suggests that loneliness and depression may feed off of and perpetuate each other.
  • Physical health : Several studies have linked emotional stress with depressed immunity. Other research links loneliness and depression with poorer health and well-being. Therefore, people who are experiencing loneliness are susceptible to a variety of health issues.
  • Physical pain : Research shows that the areas of the brain that deal with social exclusion are the same areas that process physical pain, adding a scientific explanation to the oft-romanticized experience of a "broken heart."

Are You Feeling Lonely?

This fast and free loneliness test can help you analyze your current emotions and determine whether or not you may be feeling lonely at the moment:

If you’re experiencing loneliness, there are some things you can do about it. Below are nine strategies for dealing with loneliness.

Join a Class or Club

Whether it’s an art class, exercise class, or book club, joining a class or a club automatically exposes you to a group of people who share at least one of your interests. Check your local library or community college as well as city parks and recreation departments to see what's available.

Joining a class or club can also provide a sense of belonging that comes with being part of a group. This can stimulate creativity, give you something to look forward to during the day, and help stave off loneliness.

Volunteering for a cause you believe in can provide the same benefits as taking a class or joining a club: meeting others, being part of a group, and creating new experiences. It also brings the benefits of altruism and can help you find more meaning in your life.

In addition to decreasing loneliness, this can bring greater happiness and life satisfaction. Additionally, working with those who have less than you can help you feel a deeper sense of gratitude for what you have in your own life.

Find Support Online

Because loneliness is a somewhat widespread issue, there are many people online who are looking for people to connect with. Find people with similar interests by joining Facebook or Meetup groups focused on your passions. Check to see if any apps you use, like fitness or workout apps, have a social element or discussion board to join.

You do have to be careful of who you meet over the internet (and, obviously, don’t give out any personal information like your bank account number), but you can find real support, connection, and lasting friendships from people you meet online.

A word of caution: Social media can actually increase feelings of loneliness and cause FOMO, or "fear of missing out" so be sure to check in with yourself if you're starting to feel this way.

Strengthen Existing Relationships

You probably already have people in your life that you could get to know better or connections with family that could be deepened. If so, why not call friends more often, go out with them more, and find other ways to enjoy your existing relationships and strengthen bonds?

If you're struggling to find the motivation to reach out to your loved ones, it might be helpful to start slowly. Come up with just one supportive friend or family member who you could imagine reaching out to. It's also reassuring to know that strong social support is beneficial for your mental health.

Adopt a Pet

Pets, especially dogs and cats, offer so many benefits, and preventing loneliness is one of them. Rescuing a pet combines the benefits of altruism and companionship, and fights loneliness in several ways.

It can connect you with other people—walking a dog opens you up to a community of other dog-walkers, and a cute dog on a leash tends to be a people magnet. Additionally, pets provide unconditional love, which can be a great salve for loneliness.

Talk to Strangers

An easy way to find connections in everyday life is by interacting in small ways with acquaintances or strangers you encounter. In fact, research shows that doing so contributes to our social and emotional well-being. So next time you grab a cup of coffee or see your neighbor on a walk, strike up a conversation. You might just find you feel happier afterward.

Do you have a smartphone that you frequently check while out and about? Think about putting it away a bit more. Whether you're looking up directions or checking the news while waiting in line, research suggests that technology can get in the way of social opportunities.

Practice Self-Care

When you're feeling lonely, be sure you're doing what you can to take care of yourself in other ways. Self-care is always a good idea, but especially when you are feeling down. Eating nutritious food, exercising, and getting enough sleep will only make you feel better in the long run. Bonus: Take a workout class or join a running club for exercise and social interaction.

Distract yourself from those feelings of loneliness and make a date with yourself. Do you have a hobby you've always wanted to take up or a home improvement project that's been lingering on your to-do list? Take some time to invest in yourself and your interests and keep your mind occupied in the process.

Press Play for Advice on Loneliness

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares ways to stay strong even if you feel lonely.

Follow Now : Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

See a Therapist

Research suggests that loneliness and symptoms of depression can perpetuate each other, meaning the more lonely you are, the more depressed you feel, and vice versa.

Sometimes just “getting out there” and meeting other people isn’t enough. It's possible to still feel lonely when you’re around them, which could actually be a sign of depression or social anxiety. If this is the case for you, it may be a good idea to seek psychotherapy to help with feelings of loneliness, especially if you also feel other symptoms of depression .

Some forms of therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you to change your thoughts as well as your actions to help you not only experience less loneliness but have more tools to prevent it. Whatever you do to combat loneliness, know that you are truly not alone, and there are many things you can do to feel more connected.

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We've tried, tested, and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain. Find out which option is the best for you.

Cigna. Loneliness and the workplace .

Lee SL, Pearce E, Ajnakina O, et al. The association between loneliness and depressive symptoms among adults aged 50 years and older: A 12-year population-based cohort study . Lancet Psychiatry . 2021;8(1):48-57. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30383-7

Achterbergh L, Pitman A, Birken M, Pearce E, Sno H, Johnson S. The experience of loneliness among young people with depression: A qualitative meta-synthesis of the literature .  BMC Psychiatry . 2020;20(1):415. doi:10.1186/s12888-020-02818-3

Vitlic A, Lord JM, Phillips AC. Stress, ageing and their influence on functional, cellular and molecular aspects of the immune system . Age (Dordr) . 2014;36(3). doi:10.1007/s11357-014-9631-6

Mushtaq R, Shoib S, Shah T, Mushtaq S. Relationship between loneliness, psychiatric disorders and physical health? A review on the psychological aspects of loneliness . J Clin Diagn Res . 2014;8(9):WE01-4. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/10077.4828

Kawamoto T, Ura M, Nittono H. Intrapersonal and interpersonal processes of social exclusion . Front Neurosci. 2015;9:62. doi:10.3389/fnins.2015.00062

Sandstrom GM, Dunn EW. Social interactions and well-being: The surprising power of weak ties . Pers Soc Psychol Bull . 2014;40(7):910-922. doi:10.1177/0146167214529799

Kushlev K, Proulx JDE, Dunn EW. Digitally connected, socially disconnected: The effects of relying on technology rather than other people . Comput Hum Behav . 2017;76:68-74. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2017.07.001

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

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Volunteers working in soup kitchen

Seven ways to overcome loneliness

The evidence shows that being lonely is bad for your physical and mental health. But, with support from groups and specialists – and even the internet – you needn’t tackle it on your own

Recognise the impact of loneliness

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness , a commission originally set up by MP Jo Cox in 2016, loneliness can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It is also associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and blood pressure, as well as dementia – one study cited by the campaign found that lonely people “have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia”. Having healthy social networks, on the other hand, can decrease risk of mortality and of developing diseases, as well as helping people recover when they are ill – and with 9 million adults describing themselves as “often or always lonely”, it is clear that loneliness has become such a pressing public health concern. Recognising the impact loneliness could have on you is the first step to tackling it.

Work out exactly why you are lonely

The mental health charity Mind cites two main factors that can cause loneliness: someone either not having enough basic social contact or, despite being surrounded by people, not feeling understood, listened to or cared for. It suggests working out which profile fits you best – it could give you a better idea of how to work through your feelings of loneliness.

Speak to someone

Talking to friends and family is an obvious and easy path to tackling loneliness, but if you feel you are lacking, joining a club or socialising through hobbies or interests is a good way to meet new people and increase social interactions. The Campaign to End Loneliness suggests voluntary work is particularly good, as it forges connections as well as feeling worthwhile in its own right.

Spending time online obviously cannot replace all your real-life interactions, but it can help. The NHS recommends time online to older people experiencing loneliness. This might not be the glorious panacea it immediately seems, however; more than one study has found a link between loneliness and time spent online, so it is important to supplement online chats with actual meetups, too.

Increase meaningful social contact

It’s all very well joining Twitter or volunteering at your local charity shop, but some research suggests that who you spend your time with matters, too. One study in 2011 found that elderly people who spent time with family were less lonely than those attending social groups with strangers. The perfect excuse to call your mum.

Change your thinking

Other studies have shown that changing your thinking altogether might be a more foundational way of dealing with loneliness. One 2010 study found that approaches designed to change “maladaptive thinking” – such as negative beliefs or black and white thinking – were, on average, four times more effective than any other kind of approach. Attending CBT might be a good start, the study authors suggest, so perhaps consider speaking with a therapist.

Learn to be OK in your own company

Too much solitude would make anyone lonely. But learning to enjoy time on your own can be just as important as a good social life. Filling your time with hobbies that interest you – and, importantly, appreciating the pleasure that these things give you – can go some way to combating loneliness. Watching a film or dining alone may not sound particularly thrilling, but with one 2015 study finding that people consistently underestimate how much they enjoy their own company , you might have more fun than you expect.

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Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Essay


The main character of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was sure regarding his uniqueness: “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” (42). The reason is that Viktor Frankenstein was a young scientist obsessed with the idea of creating a unique living creature by referring to science and alchemy.

Still, he cannot love this monstrous human being, and this fact leads to disastrous consequences (Cengage Learning 7; Seal 84-86). This novel represents the key characteristics of Romanticism through accentuating isolation from society, the focus on exploring nature, and the freedom of desires and feelings (Chase 165-166; Varner 137-138). Viktor, a Romantic character, chooses alienation as his path in the world that leads him to misery, and he develops as an irresponsible scientist who does not realize his duty.

Alienation in Shelley’s Novel

In Frankenstein, alienation is discussed through the perspective of sorrow and despair for the main characters. Although Viktor was brought up by loving parents, he always wanted to isolate himself from other people to focus on science (Gottlieb 127-129). Viktor states: “I must absent myself from all I loved while thus employed” (Shelley 117).

These words accentuate Viktor’s focus on himself and his desires that later determine his path, leading to more obsession with science and creating a new living being, as well as to more alienation while being locked in his laboratory and conducting experiments. Viktor’s alienation further leads him to despair because of creating the monster, but Frankenstein’s creature also suffers from isolation because he cannot be opened to society and accepted by it (Nesvet 348).

His first experience of interacting with people is described the following way: “The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me” (Shelley 83). The creature that wants to be loved faces the cruelty of the world that makes him become even more alienated and concentrated on revenge.

Responsibility in Frankenstein

In addition to making him and his creature be isolated, Viktor does not accept the idea of duty and responsibility for his actions because of his inability to understand what it means to be responsible for the creation. Being focused on a scientific aspect of creating, Viktor ignores his duty as a creator and a “father” (Bloom 22; Halpern et al. 50; Nair 78). As a result, the creature is forced to ask: “How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind” (Shelley 78). In this context, Viktor understands his duty only after his creature’s words.

However, he still does not accept his responsibility as a “father” because he cannot love his “child.” Thus, the creature states, “Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us” (Shelley 78). From this perspective, it is possible to note that Viktor is unable to take responsibility for his actions and perform his duties as both a scientist and a creator despite his ambition.

Alienation and the lack of responsibility regarding the scientist’s actions for society can be viewed as partially related to the modern world. On the one hand, the isolation of a scientist today cannot lead him to impressive results, but this characteristic is typical of Romanticism. On the other hand, modern scientists change the world, and they need to be responsible for their actions. Therefore, the ideas stated by Shelley in the novel should be reconsidered from the perspective of the modern world.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Infobase Learning, 2013.

Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. Gale/Cengage Learning, 2015.

Chase, Cynthia. Romanticism. Routledge, 2014.

Gottlieb, Evan, editor. Global Romanticism: Origins, Orientations, and Engagements, 1760–1820. Bucknell University Press, 2014.

Halpern, Megan K., et al. “Stitching Together Creativity and Responsibility: Interpreting Frankenstein across Disciplines.” Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, vol. 36, no. 1, 2016, pp. 49-57.

Nair, Lekshmi R. “Playing God: Robin Cook’s ‘Mutation’ as a Reworking of the Frankenstein Theme of the Creator Pitted against the Creation.” Writers Editors Critics, vol. 6, no. 2, 2016, pp. 77-82.

Nesvet, Rebecca. “Review: Frankenstein: Text and Mythos.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 45, no. 2, 2018, pp. 347-351.

Seal, Jon. GCSE English Literature for AQA Frankenstein Student Book. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Diversion Books, 2015.

Varner, Paul. Historical Dictionary of Romanticism in Literature. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

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IvyPanda. (2022, August 21). Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-isolation-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/

"Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." IvyPanda , 21 Aug. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-isolation-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein'. 21 August.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." August 21, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-isolation-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/.

1. IvyPanda . "Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." August 21, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-isolation-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/.


IvyPanda . "Loneliness & Isolation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." August 21, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/loneliness-isolation-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/.

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Diane Solomon  Ph.D., PMHNP-BC, CNM

How Small Steps Can Help You Combat Loneliness

Loneliness is epidemic, and it can kill. here’s how and why you can beat it..

Posted April 15, 2024 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

  • Understanding Loneliness
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  • About half the adult population in America endorses loneliness.
  • Loneliness could affect your health as badly as smoking nearly a pack a day, research suggests.
  • Knowing why loneliness occurs, and learning to create connection, are simple but powerful tools.

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Loneliness is enjoying a quiet, plaintive celebrity.

Last year, the Surgeon General deemed loneliness a public health hazard and reported that 1 in 2 Americans experience loneliness. This scourge began before COVID, got worse with the pandemic, and is far from benign. Loneliness is associated with heart disease, depression , anxiety , stroke, decreased immunity, chronic illness , dementia , and early death, to name a few. To continue the tobacco analogy, loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Loneliness isn’t just individual, or specific to the U.S. It affects societies across the globe, with those who live in higher-income countries reporting more social disconnection (another term for loneliness). Feeling lonely is so epidemic, in fact, nations like the UK and Japan now boast “Ministers of Loneliness.”

And while healthy social bonds contribute to thriving civic society, loneliness, or social disconnection, corrodes the social fabric. Isolation fractures civic engagement, contributing to a fraying democracy. Individual disconnection at work and home (everyone in their bubble doom-scrolling rather than chatting at the water cooler) reverberates outward and seeps through a culture.

There are several aspects to loneliness. You might feel left out, lacking in companionship, or isolated. You don’t have to feel all three to be lonely. Unfortunately, one suffices. And loneliness is stigmatized. The pandemic helped destigmatize mental health in general, but it’s still hard to shout out to a friend that you feel lonely.

So what’s a solution? It’s not throwing out technology or “social” media. We’re past that (though most of us know that decreasing time on our devices is an important step). There are scores of simple acts that combat loneliness. As Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, said, “Individual relationships are an untapped resource—a source of healing hiding in plain sight.”

As an aside, I’m not only talking to extroverts here. It’s a myth that introverts dislike being around people. Introverts need people as much as extroverts do—often just fewer at a time, or less frequently.

So what can you do when you’re lonely? First, know you are far from alone, and recognize that loneliness is normal, a feeling designed to help initiate and create connection with others. That’s a good thing.

Next, do something. Almost anything, with almost anyone.

Once you take a first step, the rewards are great. A simple smile at a stranger can boost your mood. You might reach out and text or call an old friend. Scroll through your contacts and make a list of people to reach out to if you feel no one seems to care. Just looking at the list helps counter that negative self-talk .

Visit a community center to see what they offer (in person, rather than online, to get a feel of the space, and talk to a real person). Start that pickleball or language class you’ve considered. Leave home for a coffee shop to be surrounded by people for an hour or two. Join a professional, religious, or meditation group—time-honored social disconnection fighters—in person or online. (Teleconferencing offers social connection, just ensure it’s not the only way you interact.) Attend a town hall or a community meeting, a book talk or a lecture.

These are baby steps, but they add up.

Keep going: Stand loud and proud—tell a trusted friend or even acquaintance you feel lonely sometimes (you can call it “socially disconnected” instead!). You’ll feel better when they admit loneliness too! Offer your time at a food bank, animal shelter, or favorite community service venue—when we give, we find meaning, boost mood, and help create a better society.

how to end an essay about loneliness

Therein lies the secret of transmuting social disconnection into connection: giving something first (rather than staying in, alone, ruminating). Just a simple nod or hello, greeting a stranger. Starting with a low-risk smile once a day or so. Building from there. Tiny, incremental, frequent strides create change. Loneliness wasn’t built in a day, and deconstructing it takes time, and courage. But you’ve got this.

Office of the Surgeon General (OSG). Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2023–. PMID: 37792968.

Infurna, F. J., Dey, N. E. Y., Gonzalez Avilés, T., Grimm, K. J., Lachman, M. E., & Gerstorf, D. (2024). Loneliness in midlife: Historical increases and elevated levels in the United States compared with Europe. American Psychologist. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0001322

Diane Solomon  Ph.D., PMHNP-BC, CNM

Diane Solomon is an adjunct professor at OHSU and has served as a leader on the Boards of Nurse Practitioners of Oregon, the Oregon Wellness Program, the Oregon Nurses Association, The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, and many others.

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Guest Essay

Many Patients Don’t Survive End-Stage Poverty

In the upper right-hand corner, two hands reach out for each other across a net; in the middle, a caduceus, one wing of which has fallen off; at the bottom, two faceless people sitting on the ground.

By Lindsay Ryan

Dr. Ryan is an associate physician at the University of California, San Francisco, department of medicine.

He has an easy smile, blue eyes and a life-threatening bone infection in one arm. Grateful for treatment, he jokes with the medical intern each morning. A friend, a fellow doctor, is supervising the man’s care. We both work as internists at a public hospital in the medical safety net , a loose term for institutions that disproportionately serve patients on Medicaid or without insurance. You could describe the safety net in another way, too, as a place that holds up a mirror to our nation.

What is reflected can be difficult to face. It’s this: After learning that antibiotics aren’t eradicating his infection and amputation is the only chance for cure, the man withdraws, says barely a word to the intern. When she asks what he’s thinking, his reply is so tentative that she has to prompt him to repeat himself. Now with a clear voice, he tells her that if his arm must be amputated, he doesn’t want to live. She doesn’t understand what it’s like to survive on the streets, he continues. With a disability, he’ll be a target — robbed, assaulted. He’d rather die, unless, he says later, someone can find him a permanent apartment. In that case, he’ll proceed with the amputation.

The psychiatrists evaluate him. He’s not suicidal. His reasoning is logical. The social workers search for rooms, but in San Francisco far more people need long-term rehousing than the available units can accommodate. That the medical care the patient is receiving exceeds the cost of a year’s rent makes no practical difference. Eventually, the palliative care doctors see him. He transitions to hospice and dies.

A death certificate would say he died of sepsis from a bone infection, but my friend and I have a term for the illness that killed him: end-stage poverty. We needed to coin a phrase because so many of our patients die of the same thing.

Safety-net hospitals and clinics care for a population heavily skewed toward the poor, recent immigrants and people of color. The budgets of these places are forever tight . And anyone who works in them could tell you that illness in our patients isn’t just a biological phenomenon. It’s the manifestation of social inequality in people’s bodies.

Neglecting this fact can make otherwise meticulous care fail. That’s why, on one busy night, a medical student on my team is scouring websites and LinkedIn. She’s not shirking her duties. In fact, she’s one of the best students I’ve ever taught.

This week she’s caring for a retired low-wage worker with strokes and likely early dementia who was found sleeping in the street. He abandoned his rent-controlled apartment when electrolyte and kidney problems triggered a period of severe confusion that has since been resolved. Now, with little savings, he has nowhere to go. A respite center can receive patients like him when it has vacancies. The alternative is a shelter bed. He’s nearly 90 years old.

Medical textbooks usually don’t discuss fixing your patient’s housing. They seldom include making sure your patient has enough food and some way to get to a clinic. But textbooks miss what my med students don’t: that people die for lack of these basics.

People struggle to keep wounds clean. Their medications get stolen. They sicken from poor diet, undervaccination and repeated psychological trauma. Forced to focus on short-term survival and often lacking cellphones, they miss appointments for everything from Pap smears to chemotherapy. They fall ill in myriad ways — and fall through the cracks in just as many.

Early in his hospitalization, our retired patient mentions a daughter, from whom he’s been estranged for years. He doesn’t know any contact details, just her name. It’s a long shot, but we wonder if she can take him in.

The med student has one mission: find her.

I love reading about medical advances. I’m blown away that with a brain implant, a person who’s paralyzed can move a robotic arm and that surgeons recently transplanted a genetically modified pig kidney into a man on dialysis. This is the best of American innovation and cause for celebration. But breakthroughs like these won’t fix the fact that despite spending the highest percentage of its G.D.P. on health care among O.E.C.D. nations, the United States has a life expectancy years lower than comparable nations—the U.K. and Canada— and a rate of preventable death far higher .

The solution to that problem is messy, incremental, protean and inglorious. It requires massive investment in housing, addiction treatment, free and low-barrier health care and social services. It calls for just as much innovation in the social realm as in the biomedical, for acknowledgment that inequities — based on race, class, primary language and other categories — mediate how disease becomes embodied. If health care is interpreted in the truest sense of caring for people’s health, it must be a practice that extends well beyond the boundaries of hospitals and clinics.

Meanwhile, on the ground, we make do. Though the social workers are excellent and try valiantly, there are too few of them , both in my hospital and throughout a country that devalues and underfunds their profession. And so the medical student spends hours helping the family of a newly arrived Filipino immigrant navigate the health insurance system. Without her efforts, he wouldn’t get treatment for acute hepatitis C. Another patient, who is in her 20s, can’t afford rent after losing her job because of repeated hospitalizations for pancreatitis — but she can’t get the pancreatic operation she needs without a home in which to recuperate. I phone an eviction defense lawyer friend; the young woman eventually gets surgery.

Sorting out housing and insurance isn’t the best use of my skill set or that of the medical students and residents, but our efforts can be rewarding. The internet turned up the work email of the daughter of the retired man. Her house was a little cramped with his grandchildren, she said, but she would make room. The medical student came in beaming.

In these cases we succeeded; in many others we don’t. Safety-net hospitals can feel like the rapids foreshadowing a waterfall, the final common destination to which people facing inequities are swept by forces beyond their control. We try our hardest to fish them out, but sometimes we can’t do much more than toss them a life jacket or maybe a barrel and hope for the best.

I used to teach residents about the principles of internal medicine — sodium disturbances, delirium management, antibiotics. I still do, but these days I also teach about other topics — tapping community resources, thinking creatively about barriers and troubleshooting how our patients can continue to get better after leaving the supports of the hospital.

When we debrief, residents tell me how much they struggle with the moral dissonance of working in a system in which the best medicine they can provide often falls short. They’re right about how much it hurts, so I don’t know exactly what to say to them. Perhaps I never will.

Lindsay Ryan is an associate physician at the University of California, San Francisco, department of medicine.

Source photographs by Bettmann and Fred W. McDarrah via Getty Images.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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