Loneliness has widely been talked about in the last few years as a major problem affecting societies and cultures around the world. Loneliness has been proven to not only have a bad effect on people’s mental health, but increase physical health risks as well – as badly as smoking does. But new research has shown a generational divide about the difference between loneliness and being alone.
The study, from the University of Arizona, found that feelings of loneliness do not have a direct correlation with isolation up to a point. People could spend the majority of their time with other people, but still feel lonely because their social connections are superficial. And likewise, some people spend little time actually with others, but the time they do is meaningful and authentic. However, correlation did start to appear once someone’s numbers approached 75 per cent of their time spent alone. Those people did on the whole display higher levels of loneliness.
Perhaps of most interest was the difference technology seemed to make on the findings. It’s a bit of a simplification, but the study found that the correlation between being alone and loneliness was more prevalent in older people, classified as over the age of 68. Whereas it was far less true for people under the age of 40.5. The study poses the potential explanation that it is the likelihood of using technology and social apps that is making this difference. Younger people, while alone, might well be extremely connected through messaging and social networks on their phones.
The study interviewed 426 people for the study, ranging from 24 to 90 year olds who completed surveys and wore devices that measured the amount of time they spent alone. There are lots of social discovery apps fighting for space in the market, all trying to service and help combat loneliness. One of the biggest issues perhaps is how do such technologies and solutions effectively reach a generation who is less keen and likely to be familiar and comfortable with the technology solutions that can be the answer to their issues.