The Shaming of Loneliness

Sara Nash, PhD, LMHC
9 min readDec 1, 2015

Prior to leaving town for the Thanksgiving holiday, I felt profoundly lonely. Then I went away, visited with my brother, sister-in-law, and my nephews over the holiday, and didn’t feel lonely. When I got back home, the loneliness was waiting for me.

Science tells us that loneliness is toxic to our health and our sense of well-being. People who are lonely have more mental and physical health challenges. They get sick and die more often than people who are connected to each other. Lonely people are also more likely to feel suicidal and end their lives.

Loneliness kills.

Given how important connection is to our physical, emotional and psychological health, it seems odd that I should feel ashamed to acknowledge my loneliness to others, but I do. I feel this way because I’ve grown up in a culture that shames people for their loneliness.

I believe we need to change this, and it starts with sharing our stories.

Age, Shame, and Loneliness

It’s a tragic cultural phenomenon for the elderly to be lonely, but it is, at least in the US, culturally accepted. We expect older people to be lonely, and we regard their loneliness as reasonable under the circumstances (e.g., widowed, friends passed away, kids moved across the country and started their own lives). No one’s left to hang out with and it’s hard to get around: Of course they’re lonely.



Sara Nash, PhD, LMHC

Sara Nash is a counselor, breast cancer survivor, and women’s health advocate. Find her at