What makes us lonely? We are middle of the COVID-19 loneliness epidemic. People are feeling lonelier and more isolated from their social circles than they did ever before.
It’s important to stress that loneliness is a serious issue since it is harmful to one’s mental and physical health. Loneliness often leads to depression, cardiovascular issues, even mortality.
A study recently published in the journal BMC Public Health provides us with insight into what makes us lonely highly depends on the age of a person.
The research comes from the Netherlands and researchers there gathered information from over 26,000 young adults. Between 19 and 34 years old, early middle-aged adults (from 35 to 49 years old) and late-middle-aged adults (50 to 65 years old). From all participants, 44% stated that they are dealing with loneliness. From all who stated they are lonely, 48% of them were late middle-aged adults, 43% early middle-aged adults, and 40% young adults.
What Factors Contribute to Loneliness?
Some factors that contribute to loneliness are obvious such as living alone. Other factors are having little or no contact with your neighbors, poor emotional, and psychological well-being. Also psychological distress, and feeling excluded from society were the strongest factors contributing to loneliness.
For the youngest group, the most important factor linked to loneliness is how often they contact their friends. Also, young adults with less education tend to feel lonely, which is the case for all participants across all age groups.
The researchers explained:
“Education is more normative for young adults, and they are more likely expected to strive for educational goals.”
When it comes to early middle-aged adults, they tend to feel lonely if unemployed. Which is not the case for other age groups. They also feel lonelier if they have little or no significant contact with family members.
For the late-middle-aged participants, the frequency of family contact was highly connected to the feeling of loneliness. Also, the important factor is health. It’s interesting that the healthier they feel, the lonelier middle-aged participants can feel. The reason behind this could be that those who are not feeling well are more likely to have support from their family. Or that they are a part of the group with the same or similar health issues.
Although different age groups are listing different reasons for why they are feeling lonely, there is one common reason among all age groups. The main reason is that they are feeling left out. Or they are not in the same position as their age group.
Researchers are expanding on this:
“Whether an individual perceives loneliness or not depends on the individual’s ability to perform and/or meet these age-normative behaviours and goals. If an individual perceives life events as non-normative for his or her age, loneliness may manifest.”
This is the main reason why young adults who have never been in college might feel lonely. And those unemployed are in the same position. Their age group is in a position in which they are not. Also, how you define loneliness depends on age and it’s closely related to what’s seen as normal for that particular age group.
This means that interventions and approaches to loneliness relate to the age group of a person. Therefore, what makes us lonely depends on how old we are and to better deal with loneliness, we have to know what’s behind it.