Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness"

"Researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. As a predictor of early death, loneliness eclipses obesity."
John T. Cacioppo, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and director of the university’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, has been studying loneliness since the 1990s. He said loneliness is an aversive signal much like thirst, hunger or pain.
“Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger,” he said. Yet the very word “lonely” carries a negative connotation, Professor Cacioppo said, signaling social weakness, or an inability to stand on one’s own.

It is only in the past several years that loneliness has been examined through a medical, rather than psychological or sociological, lens. Dr. Perissinotto, the University of California, San Francisco geriatrician, decided to study loneliness when she began to sense there were factors affecting her patients’ health that she was failing to capture.

Using data from a large national survey of older adults, in 2012 Dr. Perissinotto analyzed the relationship between self-reported loneliness and health outcomes in people older than 60. Of 1,604 participants in the study, 43 percent reported feelings of loneliness, and these individuals had significantly higher rates of declining mobility, difficulty in performing routine daily activities, and death during six years of follow-up. The association of loneliness with mortality remained significant even after adjusting for age, economic status, depression and other common health problems.

Dr. Perissinotto is also interested in examining the link between loneliness and suicidal thoughts, as there has been little research in that area. She hopes to study The Friendship Line, a 24-hour, toll-free, loneliness call-in line run by the Institute on Aging in San Francisco that is also a suicide prevention hotline.

Although plenty of research into loneliness takes place in the United States, Britain remains well ahead in addressing the problem. (Lots more)

31 comments:

Michael Haz said...

It isn't just older people, and it isn't just the traditional definition of loneliness.

People do many things out of loneliness, often not realizing the reason. People want to identify with and be members of various groups as a palliative for their loneliness. They buy ovberly large homes because they want to be in the group of people who owne big homes. They spend too much on fancy or fast cars because they want to impress people they don't know and have never met.

People act out sexually out of loneliness. Even married people, who don't have a means to identify and cope with the loneliness they feel within their marriage. The swinging, threesomes, group sex, etc. is a manifestation of inner loneliness - a wanting to identify with a group of people who do the same things. A secret clubhouse. A way slake the embers of loneliness.

It doesn't work. The cure for loneliness has to come from inside a person. That's where it resides.

As for the elderly, that's a different case. Their lonliness is different - it is the loss of family and friends, and the facing the end of one's life without the love of others. We can help staunch that. Stay close to your loved ones, check on older neighbors. Interact with them at church or stores or wherever. And don't ridicule them because of their age - that is simply cruel. Be nice, be supportive, be happy, be honored when someone askes for your help.

After all, that helps combat your loneliness.

Lem said...

Great comment Hazman, thanks.

ndspinelli said...

We uber introverts are quite happy being alone.

edutcher said...

This is a long-understood problem. 50 years ago, "Star Trek" (I know...) did an episode where the bad guy died from it (unintentionally, of course).

Titus said...

I am actually an introvert and enjoy being alone. I have friends and family which is all I need, but nothing better than a weekend alone with my dog.

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

The best cure for loneliness is fishing.

You can really think while fishing, especially if you are by yourself. I like fishing with friends, but fishing is an activity that is excellent by yourself. You have to be careful though because being out on the water, or on a river, can be especially dangerous on your own.

MamaM said...

Uber introverts who spend hours connecting, sharing stories and responding to others on the internet are fooling themselves if they think they're quite happy being alone.

Humans are relational creatures, regardless of whether they find themselves recharged by being with people (extrovert) or require time spent alone to turn off, rest and recharge (introvert).

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

Fishing is not a "cure" for loneliness, but an activity that is rewarding to do by yourself.

bagoh20 said...

Oh, sweet loneliness. I miss you so. We had a beautiful understanding, free of tension and argument. We both loved whatever we decided to do with our time and we, and we had so much more of it.

rhhardin said...

Researchers need a hobby to combat loneliness. I'd recommend programming and math, now that computers are cheap.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

"Uber introverts who spend hours connecting, sharing stories and responding to others on the internet are fooling themselves if they think they're quite happy being alone. "

I'm not in that situation any more, but I was for many years, and I did love it. I was often absolutley euphoric about it, and even surprised when I noticed how content I was. You could even hear it in my writing back then. I moved in my incredibly sexy and fun lady and her two 20-something kids over the last couple years. We all get along amazingly well - really just the best of friends who enjoy the same things and love each others company. We do everything as a family, and it's always fun. I would make the same choices again, but there is something to say for both situations. When alone, I was very happy, but that happiness made me long for someone to share it with, which of course then immediately evaporates what makes being alone great. Alternatively, I miss my peeps when they are away now, but it takes a while. I'm glad I spent plenty of time in both situations.

Why do people always fret over dying alone. I'd be just fine with it. In fact, I'd prefer it. They aren't coming with you, and it seems like a very personal private thing to me.

Chip Ahoy said...

I never felt so lonely as when I was in a relationship.

I gave it my all. I gave all of myself. I lost myself to it. I became someone else in order for two to become one. I gave everything. So that now that effort is 100% drained. Like a well run dry.

Relationships are not for everybody. Some of us find others too annoying to bear. Temporary intimacy is one thing and allowing yourself to become soundboard for another's constant and uncorrectable horse shit quite another. Some of us are a LOT better off taking other people in very small doses. It's too draining, too diminishing, to constricting otherwise. It's a harsh reality that must be faced. Need the comfort of speaking to people? Fine. Make yourself useful somehow. Surprise them with your unpredictable usefulness. It can make both of you happier. The key is very small doses.

And I imagine the hereafter. Will I be ushered into a corps of personalities similar to my own? I wonder what comes after this. I may find myself classified among the angelic grouping of crackpots. Unfathomable to the others. Assigned entirely different tasks from theirs. And I don't really care. It will suit my personality type. I work best alone without somebody over my shoulder challenging my seemingly unusual ways. This is shown to me repeatedly. And I'm best just accepting it. And the key to my own happiness is in not permitting others to crash in. It doesn't matter if they cannot comprehend my personality. I'll insist on being myself. And not necessarily what's expected of me. Relationships are too draining. They wreck things, not enhance things for me.

The advice given in this article is not for me. It's for somebody possibly most everyone else. I learned this the hard way. By failing. As always. Repeatedly.

ricpic said...

I'm not sure the old are lonelier than the not yet old. If that were the case the old would be generally unhappier than the young and middle-aged but in every survey of happiness levels (admittedly not a scientific category) the old claim to be happy at significantly higher percentages than the not yet old. Which wouldn't make sense if the old were pining away in loneliness. As to why the old are happier than the not yet old........NO ONE KNOWS WHY.

Ain't ignorance grand?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I think there is a big difference between being alone by choice and being lonesome

I've always been able to be comfortable by myself. Alone when I want to be and not really very comfortable in big crowds or constantly surrounded by people. On the other hand, I don't want to be lonesome. In a state where I wish to have some company but it isn't available. Alone, not by choice. Lonesome.

So. I have my husband and he has me (for now and for a long time God willing). The rest of my family is far away and I worry about that and miss the closer contact. I volunteer at a couple of non profit agencies in our area where I can help with the mission and also socialize with others.

Haz is very correct in that many older people who have no family nearby or who have seen many of their friends precede them into the next mystery of life which is death are alone AND lonesome. Alone also by infirmity. Unable to drive or get out. This is why family and friends to support the elderly just by visiting and being present is so important.

ricpic said...

I Think It's Going To Rain Today

Broken windows and empty hallways
A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray,
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today.

Scarecrows dressed in the latest styles
With frozen smiles to chase love away,
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today.

Lonely, lonely.
Tin can at my feet,
Think I'll kick it down the street --
That's the way to treat a friend.

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way,
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today.

Lonely, so lonely.
Tin can at my feet,
Think I'll kick it down the street --
That's the way to treat a friend.

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way,
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today.




My favorite Randy Newman lyrics.

Trooper York said...

I have never understood introverts. Perhaps because I am the direct opposite.

When I was single I would bounce from joint to joint to meet new people all the time. I would go on vacation by myself and meet new people all the time. Of course I went to places where this was easy like Vegas, Atlantic City and the Caribbean.

I find the best thing to do is be friendly and chat with people. When we go to a restaruant we usually end up knowing the owner and the bartender before we leave. They often remember us and are glad to see us come back.

Life is what you make of it.

Trooper York said...

The plight of the elderly is terrible in our new mobile society. When I was a kid the grandparents were a vital part of the family. Valued for their wisdom and experience. The older Italian ladies are dying out in Carroll Gardens. I am an old bastard myself and the elderly are my Mom's generation who are now in their 80's and 90's. I run into some of them and I always stop to chat and catch up. Their kids are all over the country now and have left them to die in their multi-million dollar brownstones. I try to bring back some of those great memories of how it used to be. They really appreciate it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Another lonesome song. Nobody answers when I call your name

Country and Western music does lonesome very well.

Trooper York said...

I was reading an analysis of the #Nevertrump pheonma and I saw an interesting point. The author said that the absolute contempt and condescension that these intellectual frauds like to spout comes from their contempt for people who lived in their own communities for many years and don't want to move. The people who live in a coal mining town or some depressed place in upstate New York where the factory has closed. These people are on the edge of despair because they can't do what their parents and grandparents did with their lives. Graduate High School, get married, buy a house and have a couple of kids while living with their friends and families in communities that their people have lived in for generation.

The response of people like Kevin Williamson and David French is that these people should die. Their communities should disintegrate. That they are not worthy of our concern. While we should continue to pour millions into ratholes like Detroit and Baltimore in the hope that someday the conservatives can get those votes.

Rabel said...

"It isn't just older people, and it isn't just the traditional definition of loneliness."

This raises the question - what is loneliness as defined by the study cited.

Here it is, a 3 question telephone survey:

1. First, how often do you feel that you lack companionship: Hardly ever, some of the time, or often?

2. How often do you feel left out: Hardly ever, some of the time, or often?

3. How often do you feel isolated from others? (Is it hardly ever, some of the time, or often?)

If the respondent answered "some of the time" or "often" to any one of the three questions he was classified as lonely for the purposes of the study.

So, are any of y'all lonely? I'm not, but that's because the voices in my head provide constant companionship.

Trooper York said...

Traditional values is not just stopping some dude with a dick from going in the little girls room. It is honoring the traditions of your people. Whether it be the Shanty Irish in Boston or the hillbillies in the coal mining towns of Harlan County. Honoring your people and their traditions. Keeping the memories alive passed down from father to son. From mother to daughter. From grand parents to grand children. America has lost a lot of that.

We have always had a faction who went on to new things. Who pushed the frontier. There is certainly a place for that. A very important place.

But I am always in mind of the great Daniel Boone. One of Americas great explorers and pioneers. Dying alone in a tiny shack on the Mississippi. As fictionalized in James Fenimore Cooper's "The Prairie."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Here it is, a 3 question telephone survey:

1. First, how often do you feel that you lack companionship: Hardly ever, some of the time, or often?

2. How often do you feel left out: Hardly ever, some of the time, or often?

3. How often do you feel isolated from others? (Is it hardly ever, some of the time, or often?)


They also forgot the important part of the answer to those questions. Do you care?

Do I feel I lack companionship? Sometimes but do I care. Not really because I can find companionship if I want to.

Do I feel left out? Sometimes and often that a relief. I don't want to be included in your stupid plans.

Do I feel isolated from others? Sometimes and it was my choice. I really feel isolated when surrounded by a bunch of liberals.

What a dumb survey to make such conclusions.

Michael Haz said...

Only The Lonely.

I've noticed that in my family and circle of close freinds and their relatives, those who are deeply religious seldom speak of being lonely.

Methadras said...

As a newly divorced man, I find myself conflicted about my being alone vs. being lonely. I did have company in that my dog of 12 years was my companion and I enjoyed that immensely, but I shared his time with my ex-wife. Even though my ex-wife and I are still good friends and we talk and text often, I still ponder the idea that we were better together even with our issues than being apart and now alone. I'm assuming she is as well. I'm not interested in getting another pet, the heartbreak of that is too much to bear for me and seeking the company of other women just seems so fucking daunting.

Women my age or older have issues and I don't want to deal with that anymore. Women that are younger are just not interested in older men and we would have very little in common since our interests may not and usually will not converge. Also, if I think about dating someone too young, it may be creepy. I'm staring at the prospect of basically living a life of virtual solitude. Short of hiring hiring hookers, that's about the only human contact I'll have. I have my hobbies like surfing, the gym, mountain biking, shooting, etc. and I can form friendships from that, but that prospect is daunting as well.

Sixty Grit said...

I live alone, I work alone, and interact with people only when I leave my house to go for a walk or go to the store or market.

Last year I decided to try to become more social during the winter. I joined a woodworking group, figured I might learn something, the shop where the group meets is heated, and who knows, perhaps I could be productive and maybe interacting with other woodworkers would be fun.

Boy, was I ever wrong. They got together in the shop, ate garbage and drank beer. In the spoon making class I said "Hey, let's make a spoon", took my chunk of white oak over to the band saw, roughed out a shape and started carving a spoon. They looked at me as if I were from another planet. "That's how you do that?"

Bunch of puddin' heads. There was a woman there, so I went back a week later, she was turning something on the lathe, and as she was approaching the final shape I said "Time to use abrasives". "What are they?" Gott im Himmel!

I got over my need for socializing real quick. Yeah, I know, I could have taught them something, I did teach one guy how to sharpen a bowl gouge, and I also showed them how to run a CNC, but they were in the shop to avoid their families and to drink, just not in that order.

And, to riff on the other topic, working around power tools naked is never a good idea. Nor is drinking and sawing. Just ask Stumpy over there. Or does he go by Lefty?

MamaM said...

I consider the five core longings of humans, from childhood on through to the end, to be:

Security
Understanding
Significance
Purpose
Belonging

When those longings/needs are being met, and especially when they're held together with love, the manner in which we recharge and receive energy (extroversion or introversion) is a matter of preference and fit that is good to know but is not necessarily related to the loneliness which arises from unmet core longings.

rcocean said...

I know some people can't - but I always tell someone who complains about feeling lonely, is to stop being so self-centered. Do you really think other people care whether you are lonely or not?

So, if you want to stop being lonely, go out and meet people. Join a church group, join a charity, join a political campaign. Stop thinking of yourself, and start thinking about how you can help others less fortunate. Have you called that lonely old Aunt?

Of course, a lot of guys, just want to sit on a barstool, drink in hand, and whine about how "lonely they are".

rcocean said...

As for me, I'm an introvert, who loves to give advice.

I love my family and a few friends and belong to a few charities.

But, i can only take so much human interaction and that's enough. Then, "I vant to be alone" as Garbo said.

I love mankind, its people i can't stand.

bagoh20 said...

Meth,

I can't tell you how to find it, but there is a woman out there who will either take you back to the best of life, or show it to you for the first time. It's hard to believe that is possible after so long and so much experience, but life is surprisingly boundless with novelty if you are open to it. Even if you resist, but with insufficient vigor, you may find yourself on a new adventure of fun and romance. Not like some life-ending final run, but just catching a great wave you never really expected. You just ride it when it comes, and don't question your luck. It may just happen one day with a glance in the supermarket or a chance encounter, but if you are open to it, and let it happen, you may be surprised how much wonder your soul is capable of. It hasn't forgotten how to do that. Maybe it just needs the opportunity and the abandon to coincide.

Methadras said...

Bag,

That's a beautiful sentiment. I'm open and receptive usually, but I'm still quite gun-shy.