Loneliness is a universal experience that affects millions of people around the world. A recent study published in Nature Reviews Psychology provides insight into what might account for differences in prevalence of loneliness across historical time and space. Findings indicate that people feel lonely when their social needs are not fulfilled through adequate quantities or quality of social relationships.
This study suggests that macro-level influences such as historical time and geographic space might contribute to loneliness by impacting individual-level predictors. These include values and norms, family life, technology adoption and digitalization, living conditions and resource availability for individuals.
Media reports indicate that loneliness is on the rise, although empirical evidence is mixed (at least prior to COVID-19). Nonetheless, a study revealed national differences in loneliness are linked to cultural values such as individualism and may also reflect differences in sociodemographic composition of populations.
Furthermore, research on within-country differences in loneliness is limited but suggests an influence of neighborhood characteristics. The study concludes that a more nuanced understanding of how macro-level factors impact loneliness is necessary to inform public policy decisions and provides specific directions for further investigation.
This study has demonstrated that loneliness is not solely an individual problem but also affected by larger societal influences. As we navigate the challenges of modern-day society, it’s essential to take a closer look at those macro-level influences which shape our social lives and strive to build meaningful connections that foster a sense of belonging and community.
It has been on the rise for years, and the pandemic has only compounded it. To combat loneliness, it’s essential to understand its underlying macro-level causes; this knowledge can inform public policy decisions and enable people to better connect with one another.
A study by the American Psychological Association has highlighted values and norms as one of the factors contributing to loneliness. Cultural values such as individualism and prioritizing personal success over communal goals can lead to feelings of loneliness; on the other hand, cultures that emphasize community connections and interpersonal relationships tend to have lower rates of loneliness.
Therefore, cultivating a culture that prioritizes human connections over communal ones can help reduce feelings of isolation while increasing well-being overall.
Family and social lives are another factor that can contribute to it. Changes in family structures, such as the rise in single-person households or the breakdown of traditional family units, may leave people feeling isolated.
Furthermore, social media and digital communication offer only a superficial sense of connection that fails to satisfy our deeper social needs. Investing in community building activities and nurturing strong social networks are effective ways to reduce loneliness and promote connection.
Technology and digitalization are major factors in causing loneliness. While digital communication can provide a sense of connection, it may also lead to feelings of isolation or disconnection. Social media, for instance, often creates unrealistic expectations of social interactions which leave people feeling left out or inadequate. Therefore, it is essential to use technology in a way that enhances rather than replaces face-to-face interactions.
Finally, living conditions and individual resources are critical factors that can cause loneliness. People living in poverty or struggling to make ends meet may lack access to social amenities like transportation or safe public spaces, while those who reside in neighborhoods with high crime rates or other negative social elements may feel disconnected from their communities.
Therefore, investing in affordable housing, safe public spaces, and other community resources will promote social connection and reduce loneliness.
Source- Luhmann, M., Buecker, S., & Rüsberg, M. (2023). Loneliness across time and space. Nature Reviews Psychology, 2(1), 9-23.
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