Researchers uncover targets for reducing loneliness, including aspects of wisdom
Loneliness may be reduced by modifying several targets, including aspects of wisdom and social self-efficacy, according to study results published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
“Published research has been inconsistent regarding the association between age and loneliness,” Dilip V. Jeste, MD, of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, at the University of California, San Diego, told Healio Psychiatry. “Thus, it is not clear what age groups are at the highest vs. the lowest risk for loneliness. Also, the relative contribution of modifiable risk and protective factors in different stages of life is not known. To our knowledge, the present study is the first large-scale survey of loneliness to examine potential age-related differences in the association of loneliness with components of wisdom, as well as sociodemographic and other positive and negative psychological and health factors.”
The investigators examined correlates of loneliness via a large online survey of 2,843 individuals aged 20 to 69 years who lived in the United States. They obtained participant data using the four-item UCLA Loneliness Scale; San Diego Wisdom Scale, with its subscales of Prosocial Behaviors, Emotional Regulation, Self-Reflection, Acceptance of Divergent Values, Decisiveness and Social Advising; and other scales that assessed psychosocial variables. Further, they identified the best model of loneliness and examined potential differences related to age using multivariate regression analyses.
Results showed a nonlinear quadratic relationship between age and loneliness. Levels of loneliness were highest in the 20s and lowest in the 60s, with another peak in the mid-40s. Not having a partner, sleep disturbance, lower prosocial behaviors and smaller social networks were linked to loneliness across all decades. In all age decades except the 60s, lower social self-efficacy and higher anxiety were linked to worse loneliness. Moreover, loneliness appeared uniquely linked to decisiveness in the 50s and with education and memory complaints in the 60s.
“Our findings suggest that the 20s and mid-40s are the most vulnerable age groups between ages 20 and 69 years and should be assessed regularly for loneliness,” Jeste said. “We also identified several potentially modifiable targets related to loneliness, including several aspects of wisdom and social self-efficacy. Thus, promoting empathy and compassion, developing close interpersonal relationships, expanding social network, treating sleep disturbances and enhancing social self-efficacy should be important goals of treatment to reduce loneliness.”