Social isolation is caused by the absence of positive and meaningful social relationships and can lead to loneliness.
Social isolation can involve feeling cut off from social networks, family and friends. This could be because someone has limited involvement in the community, has experienced exclusion or rejection, has limited communication with family and friends, is confined to their home or has limited access to support networks and services.
Causes of social isolation are varied but can include physical illness, mental health difficulties, disability, long-term health conditions, caring responsibilities, experiencing the loss of family and friends or being in a controlling and abusive relationship.
Vulnerability to exploitation
Social isolation can affect people’s physical and mental health. It can also increase vulnerability to exploitation, particularly if they are made to feel valued and are offered a sense of companionship.
Grooming and exploitation of people who feel isolated can happen face-to-face, online or via the telephone and can take many forms including sexual exploitation, financial exploitation and radicalisation.
Those experiencing isolation may have little contact with people who could check up on their safety and wellbeing. Signs that they are being exploited are more likely to go unnoticed, further increasing their vulnerability to repeated abuse and harm.