Veterans and Social Isolation

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has had the effect of bringing renewed attention to the connection between social isolation and mental health. After all, humans are social creatures—deprived of our normal social interactions and support systems, it’s no wonder that many of us experienced higher levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse

For the veteran community, however, the chicken-and-egg problem of social isolation and poor mental health has been a longstanding issue—and one that has been linked to the worrying rates of homelessness among veterans. In general, members of the veteran community are at a higher risk of homelessness than non-veterans, and for those who do experience homelessness, social isolation and lack of a social support network are correlated with longer duration of homelessness and more chronic homelessness

Causes of Loneliness and Social Isolation Among Veterans

The factors influencing isolation in veterans are complex, and they can change based on individual variables such as age, military-related trauma, and PTSD. However, research has identified three factors that commonly affect feelings of loneliness and isolation for veterans:

  • Losing touch with friends from service. After spending long periods of time and forming bonds with other comrades, suddenly losing those relationships upon return to civilian life can be difficult.
  • Physical or mental health issues. Physical injuries or illnesses, as well as mental health disorders such as depression and PTSD can worsen feelings of isolation, or make it harder for veterans to reach out for help. 
  • Difficulty relating to civilians. For many veterans, the transition back to civilian life is jarring. Even veterans with families and social support networks can feel isolated if none of the people around them are able to relate to their experiences.

If you or someone you know has been affected by social isolation or veteran homelessness, we are here to help. National Veteran Homeless Support seeks to eliminate homelessness among veterans in Central Florida. NVHS takes a proactive, intervention-based approach to homelessness by meeting homeless and at-risk veterans where they are and helping them from there. Through programs like Search and Rescue Outreach, NVHS helps homeless veterans get supplies they need to survive, connects them with support and resources, and helps them transition off the streets and into temporary or permanent housing. If you’re able, consider supporting our mission by donating or signing on as a volunteer.