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The Effect of Loneliness transitioning to College

Blog post written by,

Yaneth Beltran, RD/LDN, CEDS

Loneliness has been often times used to describe separation especially since 2019 when the entire world experienced a global pandemic (COVID-19) with over 179 million cases (World Health Organization, 2021). Nonetheless, loneliness is a wider concept, some publishments refer to loneliness as the perception of isolation from others (Cacioppo & Cacioppo, 2014), yet loneliness is manifested in two primary forms. Firstly, emotional loneliness derives from the lack of an emotional attachment to an intimate other with whom one can confide. For example, a breakup or death of a loved one. Secondly, social loneliness stems from the lack of or access to a social network of friends and acquaintances with similar interests, as in the case of moving to a new city (Pritchard & Yalch, 2009).

Social loneliness may be aggravated during college as students struggle to adjust to the changes and loss of some of their social support. Social loneliness correlates with self-esteem and self-rated physical attractiveness resulting in negative self-perceptions and harsher self-criticism especially in regard to one’s evaluation of one’s body, sexuality, health, and appearance (Pritchard & Yalch, 2009). A survey completed by the Foundation for Art and Healing in 2017 with 48,000 college students showed that more than half of college students reported feeling lonely, sad, anxious, hopeless, and overwhelmed (Campus Loneliness Fact Sheet, 2018). Some research also mentioned that an early onset of experiences with loneliness may act as a trigger in the development of eating disorders. Loneliness may also be a factor contributing to relapse in patients seeking treatment for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (Offord et al., 2006). Women with a history of bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa-binge/purge subtype reported having more feelings of loneliness during their adolescence (Saine & Zhao, 2020).

Adapting to a new lifestyle could be very challenging for students and isolation could lead to physical (nutrition imbalances), and mental (depression) effects. Therefore, it’s important to consider professional help to prepare college students embark in this important journey. Qualified eating disorder professionals can help create a comprehensive and individualized college treatment plan. Learning and practicing life skills like organization of sleeping and eating patterns, meal planning, food preparation, grocery shopping, stress management, exercising, time management, budgeting, studying, etc. will facilitate the process of achieving your goals.

Taking this into consideration and thinking on how to support students, Home for Balance created a

nutrition program that can help facilitate high school graduates' transition to college by providing nutrition education that will include individualized and experiential nutrition practices like supermarket visits, mindful eating exercises, planning recipes, etc.

For more information about the college nutrition program, please visit our website or contact us at 561.600.1424 for a FREE 30 minute phone consultation.


Saine, R., & Zhao, M. (2020). The Asymmetrical Effects of Emotional Loneliness vs. Social Loneliness on Consumers’ Food Preferences. Food Quality and Preference, 104040. (1)

Pritchard, M. E., & Yalch, K. L. (2009). Relationships among loneliness, interpersonal dependency, and disordered eating in young adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(3), 341–346. (2)

Offord, A., Turner, H., & Cooper, M. (2006). Adolescent inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa: a qualitative study exploring young adults’ retrospective views of treatment and discharge. European Eating Disorders Review, 14(6), 377–387. (3)

Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2014). Social Relationships and Health: The Toxic Effects of Perceived Social Isolation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8(2), 58–72. (4)

Southward, M. W., Christensen, K. A., Fettich, K. C., Weissman, J., Berona, J., & Chen, E. Y. (2013). Loneliness mediates the relationship between emotion dysregulation and bulimia nervosa/binge eating disorder psychopathology in a clinical sample. Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 19(4), 509–513. (5)

Campus Loneliness Fact Sheet. (2018, March 22). The Foundation for Art & Healing. (6)



Eating Disorder and OCD Registered Dietitian

I take a holistic approach to wellness by providing nutritional counseling to clients that want to establish a healthy relationship with food. I am a compassionate person, who believes in the power of the therapeutic relationship between clients and professionals. For a FREE phone consultation and more information about nutritional counseling, please call me directly at 954.773.3139. Services available in English/Spanish and Online.


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