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Hidden Burdens: The Intersection of Hoarding and Loneliness

Hoarders are lonely compared to the general population.

Key points

  • Recent studies examined the incidence of loneliness in hoarders.
  • In those who seek medical intervention, 87% were lonely.
  • In those who do not seek medical attention, 38% were lonely.

Recently, I wrote a post published in Psychology Today entitled “The Healing Power of Collecting in a Lonely World.” In it, I presented evidence that leisure time activities such as collecting could be beneficial in reversing loneliness. This is because a productive activity replaces the negative void in a lonely life.

But what of hoarders? Objects are abundant, but human connections are scarce. Are they lonely as well? Recently, several groups have examined this important question.

Yap's inquiry: High compared to low symptomatic hoarders

Keong Yap and colleagues (Yap et al. 2023) examined hoarding and loneliness in two ways. One was to analyze loneliness in treatment-seeking hoarders; obviously, those in whom the condition was so severe that they saw a need to pursue intervention. In this population, 87.2% reported levels of loneliness—markedly higher than loneliness in community samples, even after adjusting for depression.

The second Yap et al. research was directed at MTurk workers who demonstrated high indications of hoarding (HH) compared to MTurk workers with low hoarding symptoms (LH). An MTurk worker is someone who completes virtual tasks that necessitate human intelligence.

In the HH group (n=305), the prevalence of loneliness was 77.7%, while the LH cluster (n=705) demonstrated only 36.8%. This marked difference was again true when the two groups were matched for depression. It also stood after controlling age, gender, and marital status.

The conclusion of these two studies by Keong Yap and colleagues was that loneliness is an important component of hoarding disorders, and treatment has to address this issue for it to be successful.

Source: Dr. Salkovskis, used with permission
Reported loneliness by group as measured by the UCLA-3. Note: Error bars represent standard errors.
Source: Dr. Salkovskis, used with permission

Edwards' Analysis: Hoarders, OCD and controls

Another set of researchers approached this same issue in a smaller population (Edwards et al., 2023). They examined loneliness along with social networks and support in hoarding disorder (HD; n=37) compared to those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD; n=31) and healthy controls (HC; n=45). The participants engaged in a telephone clinical interview to determine the group into which each participant would best fit. After that, the subjects took an online questionnaire.

The results indicated that the HD participants showed higher scores on loneliness (HD; 35%) than the OCS (28%) and HC (20%) subjects. Also, the HD participants displayed reduced levels of social networks and backing.

The authors concluded, “The results support previous findings of lower levels of self-reported social support within HD. Loneliness and thwarted belongingness also appear significantly elevated within HD compared with OCD and HC.”

Within this latter study, it is interesting to note that the percentage of loneliness in the hoarder group (35%) was roughly the same as that in the low hoarder group in the Keong Yap and colleagues’ study (36.8%). These subdivisions would be expected to be equivalent compared to the Keong Yap and colleagues' HH subjects (87%).

What is not addressed by these studies is whether loneliness preceded hoarding or hoarding heralded loneliness. I suspect that they not only coexist but develop simultaneously as well. Still, this has yet to be determined.


Recent studies investigated the link between hoarding and loneliness. Keong Yap's 2023 research found high levels of loneliness in two groups: treatment-seeking hoarders (87.2%) and MTurk workers with high hoarding tendencies (77.7%). These rates were significantly higher compared to people with low hoarding symptoms and the general population, even after adjusting for depression and other factors.

Similarly, a 2023 study by Edwards et al. compared loneliness in people with hoarding disorder (HD) to those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and healthy controls (HD, 35%; OCD 28%; controls 20%). The HD group reported higher loneliness and lower social support than the other groups.

These findings suggest a strong association between hoarding and loneliness, but the causal relationship between the two is still unclear.


Keong Yap, Kiara R. Timpano, Simone Isemann, Jeanette Svehla, Jessica R. Grisham (2023) “High levels of loneliness in people with hoarding disorder,” Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders,” April 2023.

Edwards V, Salkovskis PM, Bream V. Do they really care? Specificity of social support issues in hoarding disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Br J Clin Psychol. 2023 Sep;62(3):573-591. doi: 10.1111/bjc.12426. Epub 2023 May 12. PMID: 37173862.

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