Economic implications of the asocial society: a scoping review of loneliness among young adults across the life course

Loneliness has become an increasingly important problem and a growing social issue around the world, negatively impacting not only older people but also young adults across the life course. Loneliness refers to the "negative subjective experience in an individual which arises when social relations and interactions are perceived to be insufficient" (Peplau and Perlman 1982). The Canadian Social Survey (2021) indicates that young people experienced loneliness more frequently than older people: almost 1 in 4 (23%) people aged 15 to 24 years report feeling lonely always or often, compared with 15% of those who were slightly older (between the ages of 25 and 34) and 14 percent of those aged 75 and older. Within this "loneliness epidemic," (Alberti, 2019) several questions arise and need to be addressed to both better understand, and respond to, loneliness and its impacts on quality of life in Canada. In this project, we focus on the economic consequences of loneliness for young Canadians, and how those effects manifest through the life course? We will address this question through a scoping review. The goal of this scoping review is to ask what the existing research tells us on the economic impacts and dimensions of loneliness among young adults (15-35 years) in both Canada and internationally, with most-similar systems comparisons in Europe, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. We define economic dimensions broadly to include employment income, employment status, labor market participation and occupation, financial insecurity, job performance, productivity, housing access, working-class, and other economic costs, including but not limited to, healthcare expenditures.


Research into loneliness and its consequences is largely concentrated in older populations, though the detrimental impact of loneliness can be seen across age groups. Consequently, our scoping review differs from previous reviews of the loneliness literature (e.g., Marangoni & Ickes, 1989; Mihalopoulos et al., 2020; Morrish & Medina-Lara, 2021) by placing loneliness within the broader contextual frameworks of socio-economic relationships with a focus on young adults, as well as by adopting a life course lens.