The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us, but those who were already struggling with loneliness saw this become much worse during social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders.
As experts in medical alert systems, we are particularly concerned with the physical and mental wellbeing of those who are vulnerable, so we wanted to find out where in the US struggles the most with loneliness, and where people are maintaining social connections the best.
The loneliest US states
We looked at a range of factors, from the number of single-person households to the number of people searching for friendship apps so we could discover which states struggle the most with loneliness.
- Maine – Loneliness Score 7.6/10
With a small population of approximately 1.3 million people, you might think that Maine would offer the benefit of tight-knit communities, and while that may be true for some Maine residents, the state has the highest score in terms of loneliness. With more than 31 percent of households being made up of single people and 14 percent of the population being divorced, the state has a huge number of people living alone.
- Florida – Loneliness Score 7/10
Florida has a large retired community, with many retirees seeking out the warm weather for their twilight years. However, this also means that the state has a large percentage of people who have been widowed or divorced, seven percent and 13 percent respectively, resulting in a high loneliness score.
- Ohio – Loneliness Score 6.68/10
Ohio may be a densely populated state, but that doesn’t mean that its residents are protected from loneliness. In fact, with more than 31 percent of single-person households and over three million searches for dating apps in 2021 alone, it seems as though Ohioans are craving companionship.
The least lonely US states
At the other end of the spectrum, we find the states which have the lowest loneliness scores where residents are far less likely to struggle with loneliness than in other states.
- Utah – Loneliness Score 0.72/10
Our lowest scorer, and therefore least lonely state is Utah. The state has a huge Mormon community with more than half of Utahns identifying themselves as Mormons. This may contribute to the low numbers of divorce and single-person households.
- Alaska – Loneliness Score 2.32/10
Of all the US states, Alaska is the most sparsely populated, with the biggest landmass but with only a little over 724,000 residents. Alaska has a particularly low number of widows and widowers, with just 3.8 percent of people having lost a spouse.
- Hawaii – Loneliness Score – 2.56/10
Hawaii often seems like a paradise, with spectacular beaches and weather to enjoy. As well as being a beautiful place to live, its residents also have one of the lowest loneliness scores.
The states with the highest proportion of single-person households
While living alone offers plenty of freedom, it also makes loneliness more likely, particularly for those who have mobility or communication difficulties. In states where a large proportion of people live alone, we can often see greater levels of loneliness amongst residents.
- District of Columbia – 44.75% single-person households
The political epicenter of the United States, the District of Columbia has a large proportion of business professionals and has the lowest median age of all states. This means that there are many people living alone while they pursue their careers.
- North Dakota – 33.66% single-person households
North Dakota has seen a recent boom in population, increasing by 15.83 percent between the 2010 and 2020 census. This may be partly due to the fact that the state leads the US in job creation, attracting young professionals. These factors are likely to play a large role in the high number of single-person households.
- Vermont – 31.64% single-person households
While Vermont is one of the least populous states in the country, it has a large proportion of single-person households, with 31.64 percent of all households being made up of single people.
The states with the highest proportion of widowed people
Losing a spouse can be particularly isolating and can lead to profound loneliness, and with some states having a much higher rate of people who are widowed, these states are more likely to see higher levels of loneliness.
- West Virginia – 7.8% of people widowed
West Virginia is home to a large proportion of senior residents, with 16 percent of the population being aged 65 or over. It follows, then, that this state would have a large proportion of people who are widowed, with 7.8 percent of residents having lost a spouse.
- Alabama – 7.1% of people widowed
Alabama has a population of nearly 5 million people, and 7.1 percent of those people have been widowed. This equates to roughly 350,000 people in total.Arkansas – 7.1% of people widowed
In joint second place is Arkansas where 7.1 percent of people have been widowed. Like West Virginia, this state has a large senior population, with 14.4 percent of the population aged 65 and older.
The states with the highest proportion of divorced people
Divorce can be a lonely process to go through, separating people from their partners and often causing a separation within other relationships, such as shared friendship circles and children.
Two states tie for the top spot here, while a number of other states take joint third place.
- Maine – 14% of people divorced
Maine takes the top spot, not just overall, but also as the state with the highest proportion of people who are divorced.Nevada – 14% of people divorced
Nevada is known for its liberal divorce laws and became a ‘divorce haven’ before no-fault divorces came into place across the country. Today, Nevada seems to still be a divorce haven with the highest proportion of divorcees alongside Maine.
The states with the most interest in dating apps
Technology has changed the way we interact with one another, even down to the way in which we date and get to know romantic partners. While dating apps are popular across the country, we discovered which states show the most interest in them.
- New Hampshire – 3,331 searches for dating apps per 10,000
New Hampshire ranks relatively low across the board, suggesting that this is not a state with high levels of loneliness. However, New Hampshire residents have the most interest in dating apps, searching Google for the most popular one in droves, with more than 457,000 searches in 2021 alone.
- Vermont – 3,167 searches for dating apps per 10,000
Following closely behind New Hampshire is Vermont, our fifth most lonely state, where there were more than 3,000 searches for dating apps for every 10,000 people in the year 2021.
- Maine – 3,135 searches for dating apps per 10,000
As our loneliest state, Maine once again finds itself in the top three, this time for the number of dating app searches. With nearly 425,000 searches, this equates to 3,135 for every 10,000 people.
The states with the most interest in friendship apps
Like dating apps, friendship apps can be incredibly helpful for people trying to make connections with others and expand their social circle. Some of these apps are specific for certain groups such as new moms, but others offer a place for anyone to look for friends and companionship.
- Colorado – 1,023 searches for friendship apps per 10,000
According to a 2014 report, Coloradans have the longest life expectancy than any other state, standing at 80.21 years of age. With this extended life expectancy, residents are looking to expand their social circles, with the largest number of searches for friendship apps per 10,000 people.
- California – 677 searches for friendship apps per 10,000
As the home of Hollywood, California is the most populous state, with more than 39 million residents. These residents seem to be in search of friendship with more than 2.6 million searches for friendship apps in 2021, equating to 677 searches for every 10,000 people.
- District of Columbia – 661 searches for friendship apps per 10,000
The District of Columbia has a large number of residents looking to connect with others. While there are fewer than 1 million residents, there were 47,190 searches for friendship apps in 2021, equating to 661 searches for every 10,000 people.
How to avoid loneliness
If you are feeling lonely, it can be difficult to find a way out of that. Making friends or starting new relationships aren’t easy for lots of people, whether that’s due to a lack of social outlets or simply because you are a bit of an introvert.
There are some ways in which you can connect with others and deal with feelings of loneliness. Here are just a few tips that may help you to feel less alone, no matter what your situation is.
- Use technology to connect with others – while you may not be interested in joining a dating site, there are plenty of friendship and companionship sites and apps available that can help you to make friends.
- Join local social media groups – joining neighborhood groups is a great way to connect with people nearby. Your neighbors could be great company if you are able to connect with them.
- Get outside – simply going for a walk in your local area can be a great way to meet others. Perhaps you have a park nearby that you can visit? Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking to strangers, a simple smile between you and someone passing can help you to feel more connected to others around you.
- Take advantage of support available – if you are really struggling with loneliness, there are support services you can use. The Institute of Aging has a free 24-hour Friendship Line (1-800-971-0016) which you can call and speak to a trained volunteer. There are also services available from the following organizations amongst others:
- The Samaritans – 1-877-870-4673
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255, if you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can dial 711 before dialing the full number above
- Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741
- Veterans Crisis Line – (800) 273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255
Looking at each state, we compiled data on a range of factors in order to discover which state has the biggest issue with loneliness.
Single-person households – a percentage taken from Statista, relating to 2019 data.
Number of people widowed – a percentage taken from Overflow Data, and sourced from a 2015 American Community survey.
Number of people divorced – a percentage taken from World Population Review, calculated based on the number of women who were divorced in 2019 per 1,000 women aged 15 and over.
Searches for dating and friendship apps – the number of searches in each state according to Google Keyword Planner from January-December 2021 and normalized against the state population to give numbers per 10,000 people. These searches were conducted for the following apps: