Loneliness vs. Solitude: Recognizing the Difference for ourselves and for our Clients in Light of COVID-19

Main Article Content

Jullian Carol Landers


social work, COVID-19, isolation, loneliness, solitude


During COVID-19 the practice of social distancing has affected society in various ways. There is still much to learn about the harmful effects of isolation due to social distancing on societal mental health, however, others have noted potentially positive side effects from social distancing such as the observance of solitude (Levine, 2020; Mercier et al., 2021). Solitude and loneliness are distinct experiences (Melvin, 2021). This point of view article contends that Christian social workers should consider the ramifications of both loneliness and solitude in light of COVID-19. This article utilizes Christian scriptures and current literature to define and discuss the differences between loneliness and solitude. There is also a discussion throughout the article about how Christian social workers can recognize and utilize these concepts in their practice with clients and in their own self-care.




Abstract 238 |


Alonzo, R., Hussain, J., Stranges, S., & Anderson, K. K. (2021). Interplay between social media use, sleep quality, and mental health in youth: A systematic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 56, 101414.

Batchelor, S. (2020). The art of solitude: A meditation on being alone with others in this world. Yale University Press.

Bendau, A., Petzold, M. B., Pyrkosch, L., Mascarell Maricic, L., Betzler, F., Rogoll, J., Große, J., Ströhle, A., & Plag, J. (2021). Associations between COVID-19 related media consumption and symptoms of anxiety, depression and COVID-19 related fear in the general population in Germany. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 271(2), 283–291.

Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Crown.
Carvalho Aguiar Melo, M., & de Sousa Soares, D. (2020). Impact of social distancing on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: An urgent discussion. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 66(6), 625–626.

Choi, K. R., Heilemann, M. V., Fauer, A., & Mead, M. (2020). A Second Pandemic: Mental Health Spillover From the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.

Chua, S. N., & Koestner, R. (2008). A self-determination theory perspective on the role of autonomy in solitary behavior. The Journal of Social Psychology, 148(5), 645–647.

Clark, D. A. (2013). Cognitive Restructuring. In The Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (pp. 1–22). American Cancer Society.
Corcoran, K. and Roberts, A. R. (Ed.). (2015). Social Worker's Desk Reference. Oxford University Press.
DiTommaso, E., & Spinner, B. (1997). Social and emotional loneliness: A re-examination of weiss’ typology of loneliness. Personality and Individual Differences, 22(3), 417–427.

Fish, J. N., & Mittal, M. (2021). Mental Health Providers During COVID-19: Essential to the US Public Health Workforce and in Need of Support. Public Health Reports, 136(1), 14–17.

Frost, R. L., & Rickwood, D. J. (2017). A systematic review of the mental health outcomes associated with Facebook use. Computers in Human Behavior, 76, 576–600.

Garland, D. R. (2012). A Process Model of Family Formation and Development. Journal of Family Social Work, 15(3), 235–250.
Keeter, S. (2021, March 16). Many Americans continue to experience mental health difficulties as pandemic enters second year. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/03/16/many-americans-continue-to-experience-mental-health-difficulties-as-pandemic-enters-second-year/

Leach, J. (2014). Improving Mental Health through Social Support: Building Positive and Empowering Relationships. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Levine, D. (2020, March 25). Turning Social Distancing Into a Positive. US News & World Report. https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/turning-social-distancing-into-a-positive

Lincoln, K. D. (2000). Social support, negative social interactions, and psychological well-being. Social Service Review, 74 June, 232-252.
Marroquín, B., Vine, V., & Morgan, R. (2020). Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: Effects of stay-at-home policies, social distancing behavior, and social resources. Psychiatry Research, 293, 113419.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.

Melvin, T. (2021). SOLITUDE CAN BE IMPORTANT PART OF MENTAL HEALTH. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 101(1), 5. Gale Academic OneFile.
Mercier, M., Vinchon, F., Pichot, N., Bonetto, E., Bonnardel, N., Girandola, F., & Lubart, T. (2021). COVID-19: A Boon or a Bane for Creativity? Frontiers in Psychology, 11.

Murray-Swank, A. B., & Dixon, L (2004). Family psychoeducation as an evidence based practice. CNS Spectrums, 9, 905-912.

Murthy, V. H. (2020). Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. HarperCollins.

National Association of Social Workers (2017). Code of Ethics of the National
Association of Social Workers (2017 revision). https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English

Nguyen, T. T., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Solitude as an Approach to Affective Self-Regulation. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(1), 92–106.

Nouwen, H. J. M. (1975). Reaching out: The three movements of the spiritual life (1st ed.). Doubleday.
Pauly, T., Lay, J. C., Nater, U. M., Scott, S. B., & Hoppmann, C. A. (2016). How We Experience Being Alone: Age Differences in Affective and Biological Correlates of Momentary Solitude. Gerontology, 63(1), 55+. Gale Academic OneFile.

Perry, B. D., & Szalavitz, M. (2010). Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered. Harper Collins.
Pilgrim, D., & Rogers, A. (2005). The Troubled Relationship between Psychiatry and Sociology. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 51(3), 228–241.

Ricco, J.P. (2020). Isolation, Loneliness, Solitude: The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Brought Us Too Close Together. TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies 41, 164-172.

Rogers, E. B., Stanford, M., & Garland, D. R. (2012). The effects of mental illness on families within faith communities. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 15(3), 301–313.

Segrin, C., & Passalacqua, S. A. (2010). Functions of loneliness, social support, health behaviors, and stress in association with poor health. Health Communication, 25(4), 312–322.

Tashiro, T. (2017). Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome (Illustrated edition). William Morrow.

Thomas, V., & Azmitia, M. (2014). Motivation Matters: Development of a Short Form Measure of Solitude for Adolescents and Emerging Adults. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3414t2qv

Thoreau, H. D. (1910). Walden. Thomas Y. Crowell & Company.

Trammel, R. C., & Trent, J. (in-press). A Counselor’s Guide to Christian Mindfulness: Engaging the Mind, Body, and Soul in Biblical Practices and Therapies - eBook. Retrieved from https://www.christianbook.com/counselors-christian-mindfulness-biblical-practices-therapies/regina-trammel/9780310114741/pd/115848EB

Tran, I. R. (2018). Improving mental health through social support: Building positive and empowering relationships. Journal of Mental Health (Abingdon, England), 27(3), 289.

Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C., Brown, C. L., & Shaked, A. (2014). Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345(6192), 75–77.