Who gets lonely?
As an academic psychologist, I find working with older adults illuminating for all sorts of reasons. It’s particularly interesting to learn what they won’t discuss. Loneliness seems to be a topic that people resist discussing. When asked about personal loneliness, the research participants that I interview often say evasive things, like “I know someone who is lonely, but I don’t feel lonely myself”. Most agree that it is a phenomenon, however, that is practically synonymous with old age. Most are surprised when I tell them about the many studies that find a second peak of loneliness – in young adulthood – which may even surpass old-age loneliness in severity. Yet more surprising to them is the apparent inseparability of loneliness and culture – different cultures have different social norms concerning relationships, expected social support, and as a result, loneliness. Continue reading