In today’s time, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high. Be it inadequate social skills or age-associated losses, the risk factors for loneliness are aplenty.
According to a recent study, published in the journal ‘Aging and Mental Health’, loneliness rivals smoking and obesity in its impact on shortening longevity. Moreover, it has now become a public health concern, especially for the older adults.
With older adults increasingly moving into senior living or retirement communities, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine sought to identify the common characteristics of residents who feel lonely in these environments.
A number of personal and environmental factors shape people’s experience of living with loneliness.
“Some residents talked about the loss of spouses, siblings and friends as the cause of their loneliness. Others mentioned how making new friends in a senior community cannot replace deceased friends they grew up with,” said Alejandra Paredes, a research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
The feeling of loneliness was frequently associated with a lack of purpose in life.
Others expressed a sense of “not being attached, not having very much meaning and not feeling very hopeful” or “being lost and not having control”.
The findings of the study also revealed that wisdom, including compassion, seemed to be a factor that prevented loneliness. Aging and comfort with being alone were other protective factors.
Individual interviews of 30 adults of ages 67-92 were conducted to reach this conclusion.
“It is important that we identify the underlying causes of loneliness from the seniors’ own perspectives so we can help resolve it and improve the overall health, well-being and longevity of our aging population,” suggested senior author Dilip V. Jeste, senior Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.