Social Indicators Research

, Volume 131, Issue 1, pp 367–391 | Cite as

Measures of Social Isolation

  • Diego ZavaletaEmail author
  • Kim Samuel
  • China T. Mills


Social isolation is a deprivation of social connectedness. It is a crucial aspect that continues to be named by people as a core impediment for achieving well-being and as a relevant factor for understanding poverty. However it is not routinely included in surveys that provide data on multidimensional poverty measurement. Although the challenge of measuring social connectedness is daunting, this paper argues that existing research in several fields provides solid ground for the construction of basic internationally comparable indicators that measure specific aspects of social isolation. In particular, this paper synthesises the relevant literature on the measurement of social isolation and related phenomena, and on the basis of this synthetic review, proposes a module of indicators to measure social connectedness that could be feasibly incorporated into an internationally comparable multi-topic household survey.


Social indicators Social connectedness Social isolation Relational poverty Multidimensional poverty Personal relations 

JEL Classification

C8 I3 Z130 



We are enormously grateful to Sabina Alkire for comments on earlier drafts and for continued support. We are also extremely thankful to our anonymous reviewer for the rich comments and incredible encouragement. We would also like to thank the Synergos Institute; Synergos South Africa; Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund (NMCF) (South Africa); the Leadership and Innovation Network For Collaboration In The Children’s Sector (LINC); Fundação para o Desenvolvimento da Comunidade (Mozambique); Recontro (Mozambique); Assembly of First Nations (Canada); Gathering Voices Society (Canada); and Special Olympics International for support during fieldwork. We would also particularly like to thank the National Association of Child and Youth Care Worker’s (NACCW) Isibindi project, and its teams in Soweto and Grabouw; the Gogo’s at the Othandweni Center; and Julio Mutemba from REPSSI, Mozambique. All errors remain ours.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)University of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID)McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Critical Educational Psychology, School of EducationUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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