Loneliness in the workplace: a mixed-method systematic review and meta-analysis

B t Bryan, G Andrews, K n Thompson, P Qualter, T Matthews, L Arseneault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Loneliness is a risk factor for a range of mental and physical health problems and has gained increasing interest from policy-makers and researchers in recent years. However, little attention has been paid to loneliness at work and its implications for workers and employers.

Aims
Identify workplace, health and personal factors associated with workplace loneliness.

Methods
We searched five databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and EBSCO Business Source Complete) for relevant articles published from 1 January 2000 to 23 February 2023. Quantitative data were synthesized using narrative synthesis and random-effects meta-analysis of correlation coefficients. Qualitative data were synthesized using thematic synthesis. Evidence quality was appraised using the Mixed-Methods Appraisal Tool.

Results
We identified 49 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Pooled results indicate that workplace loneliness was associated with lower job performance (r = −0.35, 95% CI −0.49, −0.21), reduced job satisfaction (r = −0.34, 95% CI −0.44, −0.24), worse worker–manager relationship (r = −0.31, 95% CI −0.38, −0.24) and elevated burnout (r = 0.39, 95% CI 0.25, 0.51). Qualitative results suggest links between loneliness and inadequate workplace social interactions and mental health problems. As most studies used cross-sectional data and few adjusted for potential confounders, the direction and robustness of the associations remain untested.

Conclusions
Our results indicate that loneliness is associated with poor occupational functioning and well-being among workers. Results also show that loneliness is associated with modifiable aspects of the work environment, suggesting that the workplace may offer a fruitful avenue for interventions targeting loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-567
JournalOccupational Medicine
Volume73
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • personal satisfaction
  • workplace
  • loneliness

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