Only the Lonely, the Growing Millions of Lonely That Is

2010-10-03 | |
Last updated: 2010-10-03

Increasing Loneliness With Age

One other important factor linked to the increasing rates of loneliness is the tendency of loneliness to increase with age. Research from Tel Aviv University found, in one recent study, that rates of loneliness increased by roughly 30% for every 3.5 years of aging over the age of 75. However, it is not age itself that causes the increase in loneliness. According to research from the University of Tampere studying those over 60, it is the social isolation that results because of declining health and because of the death of friends and family.  

Regardless of the exact cause of increased loneliness due to aging, if we consider that the average age of the population is increasing driven by the Baby Boomers, the result is that the number of people suffering from loneliness will continue to increase.

The Ability Of Loneliness To Spread

Another factor affecting these increasing rates of loneliness is related to the ability of loneliness to spread like an illness. Researchers from a number of universities lead by the University of Chicago found that when individuals communicate their feelings of loneliness to others, it can cause some of those receiving the message to also feel lonely. When individuals feel this way, they tend to reduce their social interactions and as more individuals feel the same, the overall levels of interaction decrease, further increasing the feelings of loneliness of each individual. The result is a self-perpetuating cycle.

The same research found particularly that women were more prone to “catching” loneliness than were men. It also found that the most negative changes causing loneliness came because of changes in our interactions with friends as compared to our interactions with our families.

While those who are lonely will often feel like they do not connect well with others and distance themselves, this observation highlights another part of the problem. Those who are frequently lonely lose their ability to interact with others according to research from roughly 25 years ago. That research found that lonely people often become intolerant and aggressive in nature straining those few interactions in which they still participate. Just as in the case of loneliness being contagious amongst individuals, loneliness also feeds on itself making it increasingly more difficult for an individual to obtain the social interactions that they desire.

Conclusions

From numerous studies, various research is highlighting that the rates of loneliness are slowly increasing within society as a result of a number of factors. With such evidence that we are becoming more lonely, the question arises as to how exactly loneliness affects our health? Another question relates to how we can work to overcome loneliness? A future article will look at the particular effects that being lonely has on our personal health. Another will look at the options for overcoming loneliness.

If you suffer from loneliness are know someone who does, please consider sharing your thoughts in the support forums.

Related Links

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7753080.stm
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/03/03/f-vp-handler.html
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_one_per_hou-people-one-person-households
http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2006/06/socialisolation.html
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=6418012
http://utpjournals.metapress.com/content/6414712374042377/
http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu/alone_in_the_crowd.pdf
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/commstudies/faculty/malamuth/pdf/85jspr2.pdf

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks, Symptom Information

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