One Third of People Feel Lonely, Study Finds

Loneliness is all about feeling isolated, but it’s actually quite common, a new study shows.

An Australian study of 1,200 adults published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing this month found that nearly a third of respondents reported being lonely.

Among the findings:

--Thirty-five percent reported being lonely.

--Men were more likely than women to report being lonely.

--People who said they had “strong religious beliefs” were less likely to report being lonely.

--People with higher incomes reported less loneliness.

The researchers included William Lauder, PhD, RMN, a professor at the nursing and midwifery school at Australia’s University of Dundee.

How Loneliness May Hurt Your Health

Loneliness: What Counts?

Does age make a difference in loneliness? Lauder’s survey didn’t prove that.

The survey showed that loneliness was lowest for 18- to 19-year-olds and highest for people in their 40s, with the elderly falling somewhere in between. However, researchers said those results could have been due to chance, and that the study did not prove that age was a factor in loneliness. So, don’t fear that your 40s will be a particularly lonely decade.

In addition, retirees reported less loneliness than unemployed people.

Length of time living in the area didn’t matter. Neither did the number of a person’s social ties.

“Loneliness has less to do with the quantity of social relationships than with the quality” of those relationships, the researchers write.

Gene Link for Loneliness?

Loneliness and Health

Loneliness has been linked to depression, heart disease, and other health problems, note Lauder and colleagues.

But their survey didn’t cover health problems. The researchers also don’t know which comes first -- loneliness or those other conditions -- or how loneliness might hamper health.

Lauder’s survey amounts to a one-time snapshot of loneliness. It doesn’t show if participants were just having a bad day when they took the 30-minute telephone survey or if they’d felt lonely for a long time.

Even so, there’s no need to let loneliness run (or ruin) your life. Forging new social ties or deepening existing relationships could prove rewarding at any stage of life.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Lauder, W. Journal of Clinical Nursing, March 2006; vol 15: pp 334-340. News release, Wizard Communications.