Social isolation occurs when a person achieves less social interaction than he or she desires. Social contact is a basic human need, and the hierarchy of needs developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow requires some form of social connection at every level, particularly the “belonging” stage. However, sometimes people cannot connect with others, leading to social isolation. It is important to differentiate between the terms social isolation and social exclusion, because they are not interchangable. Professor of political science Brian Barry has distinguished these two concepts by stating that social isolation is nonparticipation in the institutions of mainstream society, while social exclusion occurs because of powers beyond an individual’s control (e.g., terminal illness). Social exclusion could, in turn, lead to social isolation by greatly reducing the ...

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