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)
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."