Loneliness is a universal human emotion, yet it is both complex and unique to each individual. Loneliness has no single common cause, so the preventions and treatments for this damaging state of mind vary dramatically. A lonely child who struggles to make friends at his school has different needs that an lonely elderly man whose wife has recently died. In order to understand loneliness, it is important to take a closer look at exactly what we mean by the term “lonely” as well as the various causes, health consequences, symptoms and potential treatments for loneliness.
Feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person's chances of premature death by 14 percent, according to research by John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.
Cacioppo and his colleagues' work shows that the impact of loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which they found increases the chances of dying early by 19 percent. A 2010 meta-analysis showed that loneliness has twice the impact on early death as does obesity, he said.
Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University, joined other scholars at a seminar on “The Science of Resilient Aging” Feb. 16 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual meeting in Chicago.
The researchers looked at dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health as people age. Cacioppo and colleagues have examined the role …
Recognize that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change. Understand the effects that loneliness has on your life, both physically and mentally. Consider doing community service or another activity that you enjoy. These situations present great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions. Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests and values with you. Expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.