Can co-living cure loneliness?

Picture this:

You live downtown, sharing a vibrant, engaged community with young people close to your age. You don’t mind showing up to the office four-to-five days a week—it’s easy when you only have to walk 15 minutes from home. You finish at the office and head back to your Toboggan Flats apartment for the weekly Thursday-night potluck dinner. 

You feel connected at home. Connected at work. Connected to your city.

Loneliness is an epidemic—one that co-living can help to cure. 

Last week, we talked about sustainability and co-living. It seems obvious that sharing resources and fostering a strong sense of community can help reduce our environmental impact. That same community spirit can help improve mental health and wellbeing amongst residents

“Co-living is an opportunity to live in your own private place but still be part of a ‘family’. Urbanization has led to unaffordable housing and, paradoxically, increasing loneliness.” 

We don’t have to look back far to remember the days of COVID-19 lockdowns and the intense social isolation that followed in most cities. 

According to a Statistics Canada study published in September 2021:

  • 1 in 10 Canadians over the age of 15 said they always or often felt lonely
  • 23% of young people aged 15-24 said they always or often felt lonely
  • 15% of young people aged 25-34 said they always or often felt lonely

The study found that not only were young people expressing higher rates of loneliness than older Canadians, but that younger women were particularly affected—29% of women aged 15-24 always or often felt lonely compared with 18% of men of the same age.

Canadians are not alone. In November 2023, the World Health Organization identified loneliness and social isolation as a “global public health concern”, claiming the health risks associated with loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and increasing the risk of premature death by nearly 30 per cent. The WHO also noted that the rates of loneliness are similar all over the world, regardless of a country’s status and level of income.

Loneliness is not a new phenomenon, and it’s certainly not restricted to global pandemics.

How co-living can improve mental health

Built-in socialization
It may be possible to avoid socializing with roommates if you’re in an apartment of two people, but not on a co-living floor—and that’s a good thing. You can retreat to the privacy of your room when you need a quiet moment or just feel like being alone, but there’s nothing like a 10-minute kitchen conversation where someone shows interest in your day to help pick you up.

Sense of community
Built-in socialization, along with the optional group activities that some co-living spaces offer, help create a strong sense of community amongst residents who may come from diverse backgrounds. Residents bring their life experiences to the community and help build a supportive, engaged group.

Economic security
The mental health impact of economic security is not to be underestimated. Co-living helps residents not only reach the end of the month without having spent their entire income on rent, but allows them to take a little of their leftover savings to explore the neighbourhood—right in our cities’ downtown cores.