20 November 2020

Lonely or Wise

Are you lonesome tonight? Do you miss me tonight? Are you sorry we drifted apart? (lyrics from song written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman,1926).

Elvis first recorded "Are you lonesome tonight" on 3 April 1960.

Welcome back. I hope you’re not feeling lonely. There’s a lot of that going around with the pandemic, and loneliness can impact health, well-being and longevity.

Please join me as I highlight two recent studies that sought improved understanding of loneliness to guide development of strategies for its prevention and intervention.

One of the studies, by researchers with the University of California San Diego, conducted a web-based, national survey of 2,843 U.S. adults, age 20 to 69, 10 April through 10 May 2019 (pre-pandemic).

The other study, from the Netherlands, sampled 26,319 adults, age 19 to 65, from one province, drawing from a self-reported health survey conducted every four years. Although the study by researchers affiliated with Maastricht University and the Public Health Service South-Limburg was recently published, the data were collected September to December 2016.

A third study was also recently published on the topic. I’ll get to that.
What Did They Find?
There are many reasons why results of the two studies would differ, e.g., national vs single region; fall vs spring survey; different cultures, healthcare systems, loneliness correlates and loneliness measurement scales (U.S. - UCLA Loneliness Scale Version 3 ; Netherlands - De Jong-Gierveld Loneliness Scale). 

UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3), response
format: 1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = always

(from sparqtools.org/mobility-measure/ucla-loneliness-scale-version-3/#all-survey-questions).

Both studies revealed there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reduce loneliness. The Netherlands survey, which grouped responders as young, early middle age and late middle-age, found a general increase in loneliness with age. The U.S. survey, which divided responders by their ages in decades, found almost the reverse--highest loneliness in the 20s, lowest in the 60s, and another peak in the mid-40s, when people start to experience physical challenges and health issues.

All ages in both studies found living alone, lower prosocial behaviors and smaller social network to be associated with loneliness. Young adults showed the strongest association between contact frequency with friends and loneliness.

In the Netherlands study, the strength of association between financial imbalance and loneliness gradually decreased from young to late middle-aged adults, while an association between employment status and loneliness was found solely among early middle-aged adults. Perceived health was associated with loneliness for late middle-aged adults only.

In the U.S. study, loneliness was associated with sleep quality in every age group, with lower decisiveness in the 50s and with memory complaints in the 60s.

Effect of Wisdom
The U.S. survey included measurements of wisdom using the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE), which reflects six commonly identified wisdom components: prosocial behaviors, social decision-making, self-reflection, emotional regulation, decisiveness and acceptance of uncertainty. The results confirmed previous reports of a strong inverse association between loneliness and wisdom.

Among those previous reports was the third study I mentioned. Researchers with the University of California San Diego and Italy’s University of Rome La Sapienza conducted a cross-cultural analysis of loneliness and wisdom using SD-WISE. They surveyed two age groups--50 to 65 and those older than 90--from Cilento, Italy (212 and 47 in respective age groups), and from San Diego (138 and 85).

They found wisdom and loneliness were inversely correlated in both age groups, in both cities. The prosocial behaviors empathy and compassion showed the strongest inverse correlation. Wisdom was positively associated, while loneliness was negatively associated, with general health, sleep quality and happiness in most groups, with varying levels of significance.

Wrap Up
Overall, the studies found that loneliness interventions should be developed for specific age groups, though the different predictors at different ages suggest the need of personalized and nuanced prioritizing of prevention and intervention.

The UC San Diego studies suggest that wisdom could be a protective factor against loneliness. The researchers recommend routine assessment of loneliness with compassion-focused interventions.

I think it’s rather comforting that people who were more compassionate were less lonely. Thanks for stopping by.

UC San Diego study of loneliness by age decade in Jour. of Clinical Psychiatry: www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/predictors-of-loneliness-by-age-decade.aspx
Article on study on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-11/uoc--slh110920.php
Netherlands study of loneliness in BMC Public Health journal: bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-09208-0
Article on study on MedicalXpress website: medicalxpress.com/news/2020-08-loneliness-differ-age.html

UCLA Loneliness Scale Version 3: sparqtools.org/mobility-measure/ucla-loneliness-scale-version-3
De Jong-Gierveld Loneliness Scale: journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/014662168500900307
San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) in Jour. of Psychiatric Research: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5843500/
Article on San Diego Wisdom Scale on ScienceDaily website: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170920095925.htm

Study of loneliness and wisdom, U.S. and Italy in Aging & Mental Health journal:
UC San Diego news release on study: health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2020-10-01-from-san-diego-to-italy-study-suggest-wisdom-can-protect-against-loneliness.aspx

No comments:

Post a Comment