Although international students come to the U.S. to improve their academic and social status through graduate education, they are at increased risk of experiencing social isolation and loneliness which are damaging to their physical and mental health.

A new study published in the International Journal of Translational Medical Research and Public Health showed that loneliness and social isolation greatly impact an individual’s mental and physical health, particularly those of international students at the university level.

New research studies across the world are linking loneliness and social isolation to both increased morbidity and premature mortality, making them major public health problems, but the new study is the first to explore this phenomenon among foreign graduate students at a major research university in the U.S. and across various levels of graduate education among students from different parts of the world.

According to the study authors, Dr. Mehrete Girmay and Dr. Gopal Singh, their study entitled “Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Mental and Emotional Well-being among International Students in the United States,” is one of the first attempts to comprehensively explore the short and long term effects of loneliness and social isolation among international students.

Some of the key findings of the study are:

• Social isolation and loneliness are growing public health epidemics with the potential to cause detrimental health consequences such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, and premature mortality;

• There is a reciprocal relationship between health-related factors and risk factors of social isolation and loneliness among international students;

• University and community support are crucial in the potential remediation of adjustment needs for the international student population in the United States; and

• Poor acculturation can have detrimental effects on students’ mental and physical health and there is a critical need for more effort to be focused on attending to both the mental and physical health needs of migrant students during their stay at the host university.

For additional information, please contact the study’s lead author, Dr. Mehrete Girmay of the Health Resources and Services Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services (email: mgirmay@hrsa.gov).