Description: Consider these questions. Is loneliness a problem for healthy human functioning and for basic health? If so, what is the current rate of (prevalence of) loneliness in the population? Does the rate of loneliness vary by age? Does it vary by other factors? What, if anything, should be do about this? From a psychological perspective should we look at loneliness as a symptom or as a causal factor? Once you have pondered these questions a bit a read through the article linked below which essentially asks how concerned we (as a society) should be about loneliness.
Source: Is Loneliness a Health Epidemic? Eric Klineberg, Gray Matter, The New York Times.
Links: Article Link – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/opinion/sunday/loneliness-health.html
So did you notice the relative lack of psychology in the article? The article itself is more general, more sociological, and somewhat critical of how research is sourced and utilized in making arguments about things like loneliness. Essentially it tells us that claims about the prevalence of loneliness these days have been overstated and the rate of loneliness in the general population is about where it was back in the 1940’s. This despite concerns over the potential levels of social isolation associated with the massive prevalence of the use of social media and other factors that reduce the level of genuine face-to-face interactions people typically have day-to-day and week-to-week. I suppose a more surprising finding might actually be that the rate of loneliness has not declined given that we can seek friends virtually through Facebook and other forms of social media. Be clear, loneliness IS associated with many challenging health issues including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes and with psychological issues like depression and anxiety. What we need to do is to not leap to conclusions about levels of social, isolation but, rather, to think carefully about what sorts of situations and circumstances give rise to loneliness and then think creatively about what we might do about it.
Questions for Discussion:
- How do today’s rates of loneliness in the general population compare to those in previous decades?
- How concerned should we be about the ubiquitous use of social media as a primary form of social “connection” these days?
- From a psychological perspective how concerned should we be about loneliness and what should we do about it?
References (Read Further):
Shankar, A., McMunn, A., Demakakos, P., Hamer, M., & Steptoe, A. (2017). Social isolation and loneliness: Prospective associations with functional status in older adults. Health psychology, 36(2), 179. https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/bitstream/2134/22377/3/ELSA%20functional%20status_HealthPsych_final.pdf
Matthews, T., Danese, A., Gregory, A. M., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., & Arseneault, L. (2017). Sleeping with one eye open: loneliness and sleep quality in young adults. Psychological medicine, 47(12), 2177-2186. https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/64858B1C4A43295718872AA725404AFB/S0033291717000629a.pdf/sleeping_with_one_eye_open_loneliness_and_sleep_quality_in_young_adults.pdf
Smith, K., & Victor, C. (2018). Typologies of loneliness, living alone and social isolation and their associations with physical and mental health. Ageing and Society. http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/845719/1/Smith%20and%20Victor%20ageing%20and%20society%20accepted%20paper.docx
Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2018). The growing problem of loneliness. The Lancet, 391(10119), 426. http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(18)30142-9.pdf
Nowland, R., Necka, E. A., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2017). Loneliness and Social Internet Use: Pathways to Reconnection in a Digital World?. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1745691617713052. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Elizabeth_Necka/publication/319993668_Loneliness_and_Social_Internet_Use_Pathways_to_Reconnection_in_a_Digital_World/links/59e900b2458515c36331f1ee/Loneliness-and-Social-Internet-Use-Pathways-to-Reconnection-in-a-Digital-World.pdf