Existential isolation, loneliness, depression, and suicide ideation in young adults

Peter J. Helm, Michael R. Medrano, John J.B. Allen, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Introduction: The relationships between loneliness, depression, and suicide ideation have been well established in the literature. Yet almost no research has examined how feelings of existential isolation (EI; Yalom, 1980), a form of interpersonal isolation conceptually similar, but distinct from loneliness, relates to depressive symptomology or suicide ideation. Method: Four independent samples of undergraduates completed measures of loneliness, depression (which included a suicide ideation item), and EI. Results: We find EI and loneliness both independently predict depression and suicide ideation, as well as interact to predict greater depression, such that those who are both existentially isolated and lonely report the greatest depression. Moreover, those with both high loneliness and high EI report an average depression that qualifies them for mild clinical depression according to established clinical cutoffs. Discussion: Our findings suggest EI and loneliness may be independent antecedents for depression. Implications for interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-674
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Depression
  • Existential isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Suicide ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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