Who Is the Loneliest Person?

(Last Updated On: February 19, 2023)

Maybe you’re still reeling from watching happy couples on TV, Valentine’s Day, or you just saw a happy couple sitting across from you while you’re waiting for your coffee order to come in and it put you into a bad mood. If that’s the case you probably saw this question and thought “haha, I know that person. They are me.” We promise we can find someone lonelier, at least objectively. Not sure how to help with the endless abyss of feeling lonely though. Maybe snacks? Anyway, who is the loneliest person?

The Loneliest Place

When starting a search for the loneliest person, our instincts might first lead us to look for the most remote possible location. The Arctic? Deep under the ocean? 

As far as living underwater, the record for living consecutive days underwater was set in 2014, at 73 days. It was set by Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain, professors from Roane State Community College. They had each other though, so that doesn’t sound all that lonely. While not under water, one of the longest times someone was just in the ocean just at sea alone is around two years. In that case, the guy (Reid Stowe) had agency to end the voyage, which probably makes the lonely pill a little easier to swallow. 

As far as being stuck alone at sea, the record goes to José Salvador Alvarenga. He was a fisher and author stranded in the Pacific Ocean for some 438 days starting November 17, 2012. 

But what if we left Earth? How lonely does space get? Well, very. The most consecutive days spent alone in space is 437 days; this record was set by Valeri Polyakov between 1994 and 1995. The title of most isolated space-bound person often goes to Al Worden. He was on the Apollo 15 mission, and was in the command module when everyone else was on the Moon. As the command module orbited the Moon, this put Worden on the dark side of it (the Moon was in between himself and the Earth). This put him 2,235 miles from any other human being, and for three days Worden didn’t even have contact with Earth. You know, owing to the whole Moon being in the way. 

He has said he enjoyed the isolation, though: “On the backside of the Moon, I didn’t even have to talk to Houston and that was the best part of the flight.”

Solitary Confinement?

If you’re at all tuned into the horrible things humans do to each other, you might have been screaming “solitary confinement” at your screen for the last few hundred words. 

Solitary confinement is a form of white torture. Bluntly, the point is to torture people without leaving any physical marks on them. It functions by depriving people of as many senses as possible. That’s why you’re stuck in a dark room and fed irregularly—you’re robbed even of the perception of time. 

The long term effects of solitary confinement are well-documented, leading not only to a plethora of psychological issues but an increased risk of chronic physical conditions as well. All that makes the continued use of it pretty appalling. It’s even more appalling when you remember that minorities are overrepresented here as well. 

It’s thought that the longest period of time a person has spent in solitary confinement pushes 44 years. Albert Woodfox was placed into solitary confinement in 1972, and spent 23 out of the 24 hours of every day for the next 43 years in a six-by-nine foot cell. When he wasn’t in his cell, he was busy being gassed or beaten. Woodfox was originally incarcerated in 1965 for armed robbery charges, and was later convicted for murder in 1972. While the conviction was overturned multiple times, Woodfox wouldn’t be released until 2016, bringing us to our pushing-44-years-of-solitary-confinement count. 

Uncontacted Peoples

Anyone reading this post is definitely super familiar with having access to technology, and the ability to contact another person almost at will. Around the world there are an estimated 10,000 indigenous peoples who remain completely uncontacted; they function independent from any government or political system. Something like a plane flying overhead would more or less be a completely foreign concept. The definition is a little less concrete than “literally never contacted anyone,” as colonization has broadly brought these people into contact with outside forces at some point. “Uncontacted peoples” refers to those without sustained contact with our more globalized entities. 

The vast majority of these people are found in South America, particularly Brazil. These tribes broadly remain in isolation voluntarily, which is why many legal protections exist to keep them so. Unfortunately this comes into conflict with our great desire to extract natural resources, because the nature of colonialism never changes. 

This brings us to “The Man of the Hole,” a Tanaru man who was the sole occupant of the Tanaru Indigenous Territory. He was the last remaining person of the Tanaru people, located in the Amazon Rainforest. Many of his people were killed by colonial settlers in the 1970s. By 1995, only seven members of his tribe (including The Man of the Hole) remained. In 1995, six of his people were killed by miners illegally entering the Amazon Rainforest, leaving The Man in the Hole the sole surviving member of his tribe. The Man in the Hole would survive at least one more attack by farmers in 2009, before passing away in the Summer of 2022. 


See if you know your lonely countries here.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.

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