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Are older people more lonely these days?
It seems that older people are becoming lonely. But has loneliness really increased among older people? According to American psychologists, the impression seems to come from the fact that the population of older people is increasing and there are therefore more and more lonely older people.
The American Psychological Association's latest investigation found that there are increasing numbers of older people suffering from loneliness. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Psychology and Aging".
Does loneliness increase?
The study found no evidence that older adults have become more lonely than people of a similar age a decade earlier. Still, it appears that the average reported loneliness among people over the age of 75 is increasing.
Where did the evaluated data come from?
Data from the Health and Retirement Study and the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project were evaluated for the study. The researchers examined the level of loneliness, level of education, general health, marital status and the number of family members, relatives and friends to whom the participants were close.
Loneliness increases from the age of 75
Loneliness was found to decrease between the ages of 50 and 74, but then increased again from the age of 75. However, there was no difference in loneliness between older adults today and similar older adults of previous generations.
Less loneliness from 50 years?
The level of loneliness could even have decreased between the ages of 50 and 74 because older adults today benefit from improved education, health care and more social relationships than was the case with previous generations.
That is why loneliness is so common from the age of 75
Adults over the age of 75 are more likely to experience loneliness, possibly due to life factors such as poor health or loss of a spouse.
Does loneliness even decrease?
In a similar study, researchers from the Netherlands found that older adults are less lonely than older people from previous generations. To do this, they used data from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, a long-term study of social, physical, cognitive and emotional functions of older adults.
Activities with other people protect against loneliness
Contrary to the belief that there is a true loneliness epidemic, it has been found that older adults have been less lonely these days because, for example, they have a more positive attitude and participate in activities with other people, such as going to a gym. If the participants had significant other large and diverse networks, they were also less lonely.
Take personal initiative
Older adults should take the personal initiative to better maintain their social bonds and make new friends. This helps prevent increasing loneliness in old age. Nowadays, people have to shape their social life better than ever, because traditional communities, which provided social facilities such as neighborhoods, churches and large families, have lost their strength in recent decades, the researchers report.
Modern technologies can maintain social ties
Older people today need to develop problem-solving and goal-setting skills to maintain satisfactory relationships and reduce loneliness. It is also possible for older people to use modern technologies to maintain meaningful social connections. For example, video chat platforms and the Internet can help maintain important social relationships. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Louise C. Hawkley, Kristen Wroblewski, Till Kaiser, Maike Luhmann, L. Philip Schumm: Are U.S. older adults getting lonelier? Age, period, and cohort differences., In Psychology and Aging (query: 12.12.2019), Psychology and Aging
- Bianca Suanet, Theo G. van Tilburg: Loneliness declines across birth cohorts: The impact of mastery and self-efficacy., In Psychology and Aging (query: 12.12.2019), Psychology and Aging