4 Reasons Why Americans May Be Feeling Lonelier Than People In Other Countries

Are Americans carrying the heaviest burden of loneliness?

Young American girl looking sadly at her phone FatCamera / CanvaPro

There’s a loneliness epidemic in the U.S. that’s impossible to ignore. With social media, ongoing political divide and distrust, increased mental illness, and a whole brigade of other things, we’re cultivating a strong disconnect between ourselves, our peers, and our communities. 

Media outlets give you a million answers to “solve this loneliness” — adopt a dog, expand your friend group, join a dating app, find “the one,” start a new hobby, travel abroad. All of these things might be great for meeting new people, but is it really going to cure that gnawing feeling of misery? 


Because look — loneliness is not about how many people are in your life. Rather, it’s about the value of those connections. Do you have a safe space to connect with people? Do these people truly understand you, listen to you and cultivate happiness in your life? For many, the answer is no and that answer seems to be more popular in the United States than anywhere else. 

So, why are other countries less lonely? Why is America ranking lower and lower each year in terms of happiness, health, and wellbeing? 

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Here are the 4 reasons why Americans are experiencing more loneliness than people in other countries: 

1. Americans have less access to ‘third spaces’ 

“Third places” are community hubs that allow people to gather without economic, social, or political restraints. While they’re incredibly prevalent in many European countries — like a coffee shop with cheap drinks or an inclusive park — the United States often fails to create space for them.


Whether it be rising costs of living or failing infrastructure, these “third spaces” have become discriminatory and inequitable, failing to promote community and interaction in all age groups. 



Not only is this lack of community contributing to loneliness, but it’s making Americans' day-to-day lives that much more miserable — a misery that’s sadly represented in the 2024 World Happiness Reports, where the United States failed to make “Top 20.” 

These “Happiness Reports” rank countries based on a number of factors, ranging from perception of corruption to social support to population health — factors that have ranked lower than ever in the United States over the past year. Especially with the impact of the pandemic, Americans’ struggles go much deeper than just a lack of interaction. They’re finding it difficult to survive. 


2. American culture hyper-fixates on a false sense of connection through online avenues like social media

Studies show that 30% of Americans are online “almost constantly”, whether that be doom-scrolling through social media, working remotely for their jobs, or interacting with people through their phones. 

4 Reasons Why Americans May Be Feeling Lonelier Than People In Other CountriesPhoto: Ground Picture / Shutterstock

This reliance on social media, online communication, and digital community has been critical in fostering heightened anxiety and depression, poorer health outcomes, and a general lack of social interaction.


With America ranking one of the highest in cellphone addiction, it’s no wonder that we’re the ones experiencing the consequences at much higher rates than other countries. 

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3. Heightened economic and political instability fosters an environment of fear for many Americans, increasing their feelings of loneliness 

Loneliness is a “societal problem”, as Senator Chris Murphy suggests, that’s rapidly affecting public health, individual health, societal interaction, economic stability, and the political environment. As more and more Americans begin to report below-average rates of happiness and heightened feelings of loneliness, it shows in the stability of our society and culture. 

“Feeling intensely lonely is the equivalent to smoking a dozen cigarettes a day,” he said. “That’s how it can impact your health, but often lonely people end up angry … People desperately want to find meaning and connection. When you can’t find it in healthy places, some people find it in unhealthy ones.” 


This anger manifests in America's heightened political divide, the general sense of disconnect, increased rates of mental illness, unstable employment sector, and faulted economic status. 



When you think about the people in your life and the value of their connections, it’s impossible not to consider relationships outside of intimate or familial ones. The relationships we share with our co-workers, bosses, and even passing strangers are just as essential, alongside the spaces we interact with them. 

European employers and governing organizations tend to cultivate healthier work atmospheres than their American counterparts, including expansive social safety nets, food stability campaigns, paid time off, and a variety of other benefits


Not only is this inevitably creating happier people in their personal lives, but it’s also creating better, more productive, and more interactive workplaces — with employees that have stronger, more meaningful connections. Opposed to the overwhelming, toxic, and isolating atmosphere of Corporate America, European employees rank “above average” on happiness scales, with more free time and flexibility to connect, grow, and travel. 

4. Americans experience less community interaction and weaker family ties than their international counterparts 

Despite studies emphasizing many Americans' yearning for familial ties, many adults suggest they don’t actually spend enough time cultivating relationships with their loved ones. 



Whether it be the financial strain of families or generational trauma, many Americans find it difficult to seek sanctuary in these connections. 


This kind of social and familial vulnerability takes a toll on the emotional and physical health of many Americans, leaving them feeling more alone and less connected to the people around them. While family values and trends have shifted dramatically in European countries as of late, the reality remains the same — their socio-economic and political foundations have created a more welcoming environment conducive to community and familial bonding. 

To put it bluntly, loneliness is a radically complex feeling, both to measure and to feel. To fix the loneliness epidemic in the United States, change has to begin at a foundational level — starting with our employment structure, economic stability, and political institutions. 

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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture analysis and human interest stories.