Lead author Nia Morrish, of the University of Exeter said, “Given the persisting and potentially scarring effects of both loneliness and unemployment on health and the economy, prevention of both experiences is the key. Decreased loneliness could mitigate unemployment, and employment abates loneliness, which may, in turn, relate positively to other factors including health and quality of life

“Thus, particular attention should be paid to loneliness with additional support from employers and the government to improve health and wellbeing. Our research was largely conducted pre-pandemic, however, we suspect this issue may be even more pressing, with more people working from home and potentially experiencing isolation because of anxieties around Covid,” Morrish added.

The research analysed largely pre-pandemic data from more than 15,000 people in the Understanding Society Household Longitudinal Study. The team analysed responses from the participants during 2017-2019, then from 2018-2020, controlling for factors including age, gender, ethnicity, education, marital status, household composition, number of own children in the household and region.

Senior author professor Antonieta Medina-Lara said, "Loneliness is an incredibly important societal problem, which is often thought about in terms of the impact on mental health and wellbeing only.”

"Our findings indicate that there may also be wider implications, which could have negative impacts on individuals and the economy. We need to explore this further, and it could lay the foundations for employers or policymakers to tackle loneliness with a view to keeping more people in work,” she added.

Paper co-author Ruben Mujica-Mota, associate professor of Health Economics in the University of Leeds' School of Medicine, said, “While previous research has shown that unemployment can cause loneliness, ours is the first study to identify those lonely people of any working age are at greater risk of becoming unemployed.”

“Our findings show that these two issues can interact and create a self-fulfilling, negative cycle. There is a need for greater recognition of the wider societal impacts of loneliness in the working-age population,” Mujica-Mota added.