Study tells us why we feel lonelier as we age –

New research reveals why when you think of a festively picture-perfect vacation, what actually happens isn’t always right.

That’s where loneliness comes from, says Samia, a graduate student at King’s College London Aht Khan, lead author of the new study on the was published in a magazine Perspectives on Psychological Science.

“Loneliness arises from the discrepancy between expected and actual social relationships,” Akhter-Khan said.

with Duke’s Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience. Leon Li, Akhter-Khan and colleagues have co-authored a paper on why people feel lonely, especially in later life, and what we can do about it.

“The problem we found in the current study is that we haven’t really thought about it: What do people expect from their relationship?” Akht Khan said. “We use this definition of expectations, but we don’t really identify what those expectations are and how they change across cultures or across lifespans.”

In every relationship, we expect certain basics. We all wish that the people in our lives could turn to us for help. A friend we can call on when we need it. Someone to confide in. “Get” our people. Someone we can trust. Companions with whom we can share interesting experiences.

But the team’s theory, called Social Relationship Expectations FrameworkSuggests that older adults may have certain neglected relationship expectations.

During Akht Khan’s year-long research on aging in Myanmar, from 2018 to 2019, she found the first clue that the causes of loneliness may be more complex than they appear. At first, she didn’t think people were usually lonely—after all, “people are connected and live in a tight-knit society. People have extended families; they’re often together. Why do people feel lonely?”

But her research suggests otherwise. “The results were actually different,” she said. People can still feel lonely, even if they don’t spend much time alone.

Efforts to reduce loneliness ignore how our expectations about relationships change as we age, she said. For example, what we want from our social connections in our 30s is not what we want in our 70s.

The researchers identified two age-specific expectations that were not taken into account. On the one hand, older people want to be respected. They want people to listen to them, be interested in their experiences and learn from their mistakes. Appreciate everything they’ve been through and the obstacles they’ve overcome.

They also want to contribute: to give back to others and their communities, and to pass on traditions or skills through teaching and mentoring, volunteering, caring, or other meaningful activities.

Finding ways to meet these expectations as we age can go a long way toward combating loneliness in later life, but research has largely left them out.

“They don’t fit on the usual scales of loneliness,” Lee said.

Part of the reason for the oversight may be that the labor and contributions of older adults are often not accounted for in typical economic indicators, said Akhter-Khan, who was a graduate research assistant in Duke University’s Bass Connections program in 2019-20. How societies value caring in a global economy.

“Ageism and negative aging stereotypes don’t help,” she added. 2016 World Health Organization A survey covering 57 countries found that 60 percent of respondents said older people were not treated with respect.

Loneliness is not unique to older adults. “It’s also a problem for young people,” Akhter-Khan said. “If you look at the distribution of loneliness across the lifespan, there are two peaks, one in early adulthood and one in old age.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, world leaders were sounding the alarm about loneliness as a public health problem. In 2018, the UK became the first country to appoint a loneliness minister. Japan follows suit in 2021.

That’s because loneliness isn’t just a feeling — it can affect your health. Persistent loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and stroke, and other health problems. Some researchers believe it is comparable to, or even more dangerous than, smoking and obesity.

The researchers hope that if we gain a better understanding of what causes loneliness, we may be able to better tackle the problem.

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