LONELINESS THROUGOUT LIFE
“We know from population studies that there are two big peaks of loneliness over the lifespan: one in young adulthood and one in older age,” says psychiatrist Dr Farhana Mann. While causes of loneliness in later life may seem obvious, provoked by the loss of social networks that can come with retirement, bereavements and mobility problems, loneliness in adolescence happens for different reasons. “Chronic loneliness exists in young people, particularly those who are ostracised. The social world of adolescents is perilous because frankly, that is the most status-conscious period of our individual trajectories. That is when young people can feel least valued by their peers. There is an incredible level of competition that comes from the primed reproductive system, and people who don’t fare well feel incredibly bereft,” says Prof Steve Cole, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles.
For Dr Juliet Wakefield, senior lecturer in psychology at Nottingham Trent University, the question is less about age and more about life stage. “The risk of loneliness is especially high during times of transition in our lives: when we become a student, a parent, a retiree, a widow. At these points there is the risk of us losing our connection with groups we belonged to before the transition,” she says.
ABOVE: Contrary to stereotypes, research has found that loneliness is not restricted to old age. Research published in Developmental Psychology surveyed 16,132 people and found that while the causes of loneliness in the elderly is well understood, less is known about what causes it in youngsters