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Why Do We Feel Lonely As We Age? Study Explains Reasons

There are times when we all feel lonely. Of course, this is a personal experience, so each individual will experience loneliness differently. In general, loneliness refers to the inability to meet our need for rewarding social interaction and relationships. However, it is important to understand that loneliness does not always mean being alone [1].

While some may find this a lonely experience, others may choose to live alone and be happy without much contact with other people.

Similarly, you may be in a relationship or a family but still feel lonely - especially if you do not feel understood or cared for by your loved ones.

A recent study suggests that loneliness is caused by a discrepancy between the expectations and realities of social relationships [2]. Read more on why do we feel lonely as we age below.

Why Do We Feel Lonely As We Age?

Here are the major points from the study:

  • A new study, especially in this field, explored why people feel lonely, especially in later life.
  • According to the study findings, human beings have a set of expectations in life, but we fail to pinpoint what those expectations are and how they may change across cultures or throughout a lifetime.
  • According to the researchers, the Social Relationship Expectations Framework suggests that older people may have certain relationship expectations that have been overlooked [3].
  • Researchers suggested that efforts to reduce loneliness have largely overlooked the fact that our relationship expectations change as we age. For example, what we expect from social connections in our 30s may differ from what we want in our 70s.
  • The researchers identified two age-specific expectations as lacking consideration. (1) It is important for older adults to feel respected. They want people to listen to them, take an interest in their experiences and learn from their mistakes. To recognize their achievements and overcome the obstacles they have faced. (2) they want to contribute to society by teaching and mentoring, volunteering, caring for others, or engaging in other meaningful activities [3].
  • According to the study, part of the reason for the oversight may be that there is often no accounting for the labour and contributions of older people in typical economic indices.
  • Ageism and negative ageing stereotypes also contribute to loneliness as we age. According to a World Health Organization survey conducted in 2016, 60 per cent of respondents said that older adults are not respected [4].
  • According to the researchers, loneliness is a problem for older individuals and young adults. If you examine the distribution of loneliness across the lifespan, you will find two peaks; one is in young adulthood and one in old age [5].

On A Final Note...

Even though previous research has largely neglected these areas, finding ways to fulfil these expectations as we age can go a long way towards combating loneliness. The researchers hope that by better understanding the factors that drive loneliness, we might be better able to address it.

Story first published: Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 14:39 [IST]
Read more about: lonely loneliness ageing old age
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