Some Curious Facts About Loneliness
Loneliness and being alone can have different meanings for us. Some love it and some hate it. In the middle, are those who think that sometimes it’s good to be alone and at others to enjoy company. However, being alone is one thing and feeling alone is another.
In fact, one of the curious facts about loneliness is that it doesn’t depend on the number of friends but on the quality of the ties. This is a fact that’s well recognized by famous or powerful figures, who are always surrounded by people with whom they maintain superficial relationships.
As humans, we’re sociable by nature, but that degree of sociability varies a lot, depending on each individual and their circumstances. Some people even live like hermits, but it doesn’t mean that they’ve lost the essence of being human.
Let’s take a look at some curious facts about loneliness.
“Whoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”
Who feels more alone?
One curious fact about loneliness is the number of stereotypes there are surrounding it. Indeed, almost everyone thinks that those who feel the most alone are older adults. However, the BBC Loneliness Experiment discovered this isn’t necessarily the case.
Although it wasn’t a scientific study as such, the surprising fact emerged that young people feel more alone than the elderly. In fact, the study found that only 25 percent of people over the age of 75 said they felt lonely. In contrast, 40 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 felt alone.
Even when participants of all ages were asked when they’d felt the loneliest in their lives, the majority claimed that it was during their youth. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the passage from adolescence to young adulthood coincides with a process of individuation in which family ties are generally renounced. It can be experienced as a feeling of great loneliness.
The negative face of social isolation
Social isolation harms and generates suffering when it’s not chosen. A 2011 study found that unelected social isolation causes the body to behave as if it’s being threatened. It increases blood pressure and triggers responses to physical and psychological stress.
The same study indicated that social isolation increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, it decreases the efficiency of the immune system, which increases the risk of infection. In fact, vaccines have shown less efficacy against the flu in people experiencing unwanted loneliness.
Other research indicates that chronic loneliness increases the risk of premature death by up to 14 percent. The effect of this situation has even been compared to that of prolonged tobacco use. One more curious fact is that people who feel lonely perceive the cold more intensely.
Other curious facts about loneliness
One positive aspect of loneliness is that people in this condition have been found to be more empathetic than others. They have a great capacity to understand the hurt of other people and experience a natural solidarity with those who are suffering. Therefore, they tend to make better friends than those who are more social.
As a matter of fact, although loneliness is generally viewed negatively, the truth is that 41 percent of people believe that the condition has several positive aspects, as indicated by the BBC study we mentioned above. One of those positive elements is that it facilitates introspection and allows a greater connection with ourselves. Similarly, lonely people are more likely to form meaningful bonds with others, given the opportunity.
The available data indicates that people who choose to be alone are more coherent in their decision-making, calmer, and better at setting boundaries with others. In addition, they judge others less and are more loyal. In fact, chosen solitude is, for many, a synonym for both freedom and autonomy.It might interest you...
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- Cole, S. W., Capitanio, J. P., Chun, K., Arevalo, J. M., Ma, J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2015). Myeloid differentiation architecture of leukocyte transcriptome dynamics in perceived social isolation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(49), 15142–15147. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1514249112
- Cole SW, Hawkley LC, Arevalo JM, Cacioppo JT. Transcript origin analysis identifies antigen-presenting cells as primary targets of socially regulated gene expression in leukocytes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):3080-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1014218108. Epub 2011 Feb 7. PMID: 21300872; PMCID: PMC3041107.
- Montero, M., Lena, L., & Sánchez-Sosa, J. J. (2001). La soledad como fenómeno psicológico: un análisis conceptual. Salud mental, 24(1), 19-27.