For many people merely being alone does not necessarily mean feeling lonely.
It may be that people use fictional characters to fill a space that is missing in their real lives.
Reducing loneliness and depression could be as simple as this…
Limiting social media to 30 minutes per day decreases feelings of loneliness and depression, research finds.
The study strongly suggests that excessive social media use makes people more depressed and lonely.
It is also ironic that less ‘social’ media use reduces feelings of loneliness.
For the study, 143 college students were tracked for three weeks.
Half were told to use social media as normal, while the other half were instructed to limit it to 30 minutes per day.
All reported their use of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram along with feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and fear of missing out.
Dr Melissa G. Hunt, the study’s first author, explained the results:
“Here’s the bottom line.
Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.
These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”
Dr Hunt does not think young people should stop using social media all together.
Limiting screen time, though, seems sensible, she says:
“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely.
Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens.
When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
Dr Hunt concluded:
“When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life.
In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.”
The study was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (Hunt et al., 2018).
Over one-third of US adults over 45 report feeling lonely and among those over 65, one-quarter feel socially isolated.
Loneliness and social isolation are just as threatening to health, if not more so, than obesity.
The emotion causes consistent stress to the body, which may hasten the onset of diabetes.
Prolonged loneliness can lead to type-2 diabetes, research suggests.
An absence of deep, positive relationships is the key factor, rather than a simple lack of contact.
In other words, one can still be lonely in a crowd.
One-third of adults in the US report that they feel lonely at least some of the time.
The same figure for the UK is one-in-five.
It is not known exactly why loneliness is linked to type-2 diabetes.
One possible explanation is that loneliness causes consistent stress to the body, which hastens the onset of the disease.
Dr Ruth Hackett, the study’s first author, said:
“The study shows a strong relationship between loneliness and the later onset of type 2 diabetes.
What is particularly striking is that this relationship is robust even when factors that are important in diabetes development are taken into account such as smoking, alcohol intake and blood glucose as well as mental health factors such as depression.
The study also demonstrates a clear distinction between loneliness and social isolation in that isolation or living alone does not predict type 2 diabetes whereas loneliness, which is defined by a person’s quality of relationships, does.”
The study included 4,112 people aged over 50 who were tracked over 15 years.
During this period, 264 people developed type 2 diabetes, with lonely people at a higher risk.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body turns food into energy.
It means that the body finds it difficult to keep blood sugar at normal levels.
Diabetes can cause serious health problems, such as heart and kidney disease as well as vision loss.
Dr Hackett said:
“I came up with the idea for the research during UK lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic as I became increasingly aware and interested in how loneliness may affect our health, especially as it is likely that many more people were experiencing this difficult emotion during this period.”
Stress linked to loneliness may be causing diabetes, said Dr Hackett:
“If the feeling of loneliness becomes chronic.
Then everyday you’re stimulating the stress system and over time that leads to wear and tear on your body and those negative changes in stress-related biology may be linked to type 2 diabetes development.”
The study was published in the journal Diabetologia (Hackett et al., 2020).
Why lonely people feel different and may find it hard to connect with their peers.
When cut off from other people we develop a craving for them that is similar to hunger.
One reason loneliness is so hard to overcome.
Sitting or standing further away from friends and family is a symptom of loneliness, research finds.
Lonely people people prefer a larger interpersonal distance between themselves and those with whom they have the closest relationships.
The reason lonely people keep their distance is that they are more wary of social threats.
Although they want to reconnect with others, lonely people are anxious about being rejected or facing hostility.
Naturally, this makes loneliness harder to overcome.
Mr Elliot Layden, the study’s first author, said:
“To our knowledge, this is the first direct evidence for a link between interpersonal distance preferences and loneliness.
This finding may be important to consider in the context of loneliness interventions—such as client-therapist interactions and community programs seeking to combat loneliness.”
The study included 580 people who were surveyed about their loneliness and their preference for interpersonal space.
The results showed that being lonely doubled the chance that someone would prefer to stand or sit further away from their friends and family.
However, lonely people do not stand or sit any further away from strangers, the research also showed.
Some people felt lonely despite having a high degree of social interaction, for example at work.
Dr Stephanie Cacioppo, study co-author, said:
“You can feel alone even in a crowd or in a marriage—loneliness is really a discrepancy between what you want and what you have.”
Lonely people go into a kind of ‘survival mode’ that helps protect them from social threats.
Dr Cacioppo said:
“This ‘survival mode’ means that even though a lonely person wants more social interaction, they may still unconsciously keep their distance.
The hope is that by bringing this to conscious attention, we can reduce the incidence of divorce as a byproduct of loneliness and increase meaningful connections among people.”
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Layden et al., 2018).
People like this enjoy being exposed to diverse viewpoints and others look to them for advice.
Wisdom protects people against loneliness, a study suggests.
People high in two particular components of wisdom — empathy and compassion — were especially unlikely to become lonely, the researchers found.
Wisdom is a personality trait: typically, 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.
Professor Dilip Jeste, the study’s first author, said:
“An important finding from our study was a significant inverse correlation between loneliness and wisdom.
People with higher scores on a measure of wisdom were less lonely and vice versa.
Loneliness was consistently associated with poor general health, worse quality of sleep and less happiness, whereas the reverse was generally true for wisdom.”
The study included older adults in a relatively isolated, rural area of Italy.
The researchers also surveyed people living in San Diego, an urban/suburban area in the US.
All were asked about various components of wisdom, including compassion, empathy, emotional regulation and self-reflection.
The results showed that people who were high in empathy and compassion were particularly unlikely to feel lonely.
Professor Jeste said:
“Both loneliness and wisdom are personality traits.
Most personality traits are partially inherited and partially determined by environment.”
Like many other personality traits, wisdom can be difficult to change, but not impossible.
Dr David Brenner, study co-author, said:
“If we can increase someone’s compassion, wisdom is likely to go up and loneliness is likely to go down.
At UC San Diego, we have considerable interest in enhancing empathy and compassion to reduce levels of stress and improve happiness and well-being.”
Professor Jeste said:
“So how do you increase compassion? Utilizing approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy or writing in a gratitude diary can help someone become more compassionate.”
The study was published in the journal Aging and Mental Health (Jeste et al., 2020).