Why Loneliness Is A Growing Public Health Concern — And What We Can Do About It

Our time has been called the “age of loneliness.” It’s estimated that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness, and while we’re more connected than ever before, social media may actually be exacerbating the problem.

A new wave of research is shedding light on some of the causes and consequences of chronic loneliness, a condition that significantly raises the risk of a number of physical and psychological health problems, including heart disease and depression.

For a condition that has such an enormous impact on our health and well-being, loneliness has been relatively neglected by psychologists — but that’s beginning to change.

In a special section of the March 2015 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, psychologists took stock of some of the potential causes and risks of loneliness, as well as possible treatments.

While it’s true that nearly everyone will experience feelings of loneliness at some point in their lives, chronic feelings of loneliness can become a significant health concern.

“Many people thought of loneliness as a transient state — something most everyone experiences but that is relatively short-lived,” Dr. David Sbarra, a psychologist at the University of Arizona and the editor of the journal issue’s special loneliness report, told The Huffington Post. “As we learned that some people are chronically lonely, we began to see that the topic has considerable public health importance.”

Here are some of the report’s findings:

Loneliness may be part of our biological “warning system.”
Why do we experience the feeling of loneliness? Evolutionary psychology may offer some answers.

In one of the studies the journal published, University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and his colleagues hypothesized that the feeling of loneliness may have had adaptive value — both for humans —> Read More