Focus-Science and Technology - - Psychology -

“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

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