Article Text

other Versions

Download PDFPDF
Loneliness at the age of COVID-19
  1. Zohar Lederman1,2
  1. 1Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, LKS Medical Faculty, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  2. 2International Center of Health, Law, and Ethics, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
  1. Correspondence to Dr Zohar Lederman, Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong, 852, Hong Kong; zoharlederman{at}


Loneliness has been a major concern for philosophers, poets and psychologists for centuries. In the past several decades, it has concerned clinicians and public health practitioners as well. The research on loneliness is urgent for several reasons. First, loneliness has been and still is extremely ubiquitous, potentially affecting people across multiple demographics and geographical areas. Second, it is philosophically intriguing, and its analysis delves into different branches of philosophy including phenomenology, existentialism, philosophy of mind, etc. Third, empirical research has shown that loneliness is a significant health risk factor. Loneliness may thus be defined as a (negative) social determinant of health.

Having that said, COVID-19 has demonstrated how little we as members of humanity have been prepared to face the loneliness resulting from the global response to the virus. As people worldwide are literally dying from loneliness, we still do not know what makes one feel lonely while making another feel being in solitude, or how is it that one feels lonely in the heart of London.

In this essay, I first review loneliness in general and specifically in the context of COVID-19. I then argue that loneliness should be understood as a social determinant of health. Lastly, I argue that individuals have a right not to be lonely. Such right stems in turn from the right to healthcare or even a right to health.

  • COVID-19

Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. No data are available.

This article is made freely available for personal use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. No data are available.

View Full Text


  • Contributors I am the sole author of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Other content recommended for you