Science Daily | December 2018 | Serious loneliness spans the adult lifespan but there is a silver lining
A research team from the University of California San Diego studied loneliness, their findings suggest loneliness is more widespread than previous research indicated. They found that experiencing loneliness was particularly pronounced at three points in life: in late-20s, mid-50s and late-80s. Three quarters of participants reported moderate to high levels of loneliness, using a well-established assessment scale: the UCLA Loneliness Scale Version 4. This statistic shows a substantial increase from previously reported prevalence estimates in the U.S. general population, which have ranged from 17 to 57 per cent (via Science Daily)
Lead author Ellen Lee, characterized the study’s findings as both bad news and good news. On the negative side, she said, moderate to severe loneliness appears to be highly prevalent throughout adult life. “And loneliness seems to be associated with everything bad. It’s linked to poor mental health, substance abuse, cognitive impairment, and worse physical health, including malnutrition, hypertension and disrupted sleep.”
Another finding was more positive linking wisdom to being less lonely (Source: Science Daily).
Lee, E. E. et al |2018| High prevalence and adverse health effects of loneliness in community-dwelling adults across the lifespan: role of wisdom as a protective factor| International Psychogeriatrics| 1 |DOI: 10.1017/S1041610218002120
Objectives:This study of loneliness across adult lifespan examined its associations with sociodemographics, mental health (positive and negative psychological states and traits), subjective cognitive complaints, and physical functioning.
Design:Analysis of cross-sectional data
Participants:340 community-dwelling adults in San Diego, California, mean age 62 (SD = 18) years, range 27–101 years, who participated in three community-based studies.
Measurements:Loneliness measures included UCLA Loneliness Scale Version 3 (UCLA-3), 4-item Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Social Isolation Scale, and a single-item measure from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CESD) scale. Other measures included the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) and Medical Outcomes Survey- Short form 36.
Results:Seventy-six percent of subjects had moderate-high levels of loneliness on UCLA-3, using standardized cut-points. Loneliness was correlated with worse mental health and inversely with positive psychological states/traits. Even moderate severity of loneliness was associated with worse mental and physical functioning. Loneliness severity and age had a complex relationship, with increased loneliness in the late-20s, mid-50s, and late-80s. There were no sex differences in loneliness prevalence, severity, and age relationships. The best-fit multiple regression model accounted for 45% of the variance in UCLA-3 scores, and three factors emerged with small-medium effect sizes: wisdom, living alone and mental well-being.
Conclusions:The alarmingly high prevalence of loneliness and its association with worse health-related measures underscore major challenges for society. The non-linear age-loneliness severity relationship deserves further study. The strong negative association of wisdom with loneliness highlights the potentially critical role of wisdom as a target for psychosocial/behavioral interventions to reduce loneliness. Building a wiser society may help us develop a more connected, less lonely, and happier society.
Rotherham NHS staff can request the journal article here