Being wise protects against loneliness, new research finds.
Wise people enjoy being exposed to diverse viewpoints and other people look to them for advice.
Wise people are also skilled at filtering negative emotions and do not postpone major decisions.
The conclusions come from a study of 340 people in the US.
They were asked about any loneliness they experienced and their wisdom was assessed.
The results showed that loneliness tended to peak at particular times in life.
People experienced most loneliness in their late-20s, mid-50s and late-80s.
Three-quarters of study participants experienced moderate to severe loneliness.
Professor Dilip Jeste, study author, said this was surprisingly high:
“They didn’t have major physical disorders.
Nor did they suffer from significant mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia, in which you might expect loneliness to be problematic.”
Unfortunately, loneliness is very damaging, explained Dr Ellen Lee, the study’s first author:
“…loneliness seems to be associated with everything bad.
It’s linked to poor mental health, substance abuse, cognitive impairment, and worse physical health, including malnutrition, hypertension and disrupted sleep.
High levels of wisdom, though, seemed to have a protective effect against loneliness:
“That may be due to the fact that behaviors which define wisdom, such as empathy, compassion, emotional regulation, self-reflection, effectively counter or prevent serious loneliness.”
Professor Jeste said:
“…these findings suggest we need to think about loneliness differently.
It’s not about social isolation.
A person can be alone and not feel lonely, while a person can be in a crowd and feel alone.
We need to find solutions and interventions that help connect people that help them to become wiser.
A wiser society would be a happier, more connected, and less lonely society.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics (Lee et al., 2019).