Happy holidays! It’s the loneliest time of the year. And depending on your age, it might be even lonelier than usual.
People most frequently experience peak loneliness at three key periods of their lives, according to new research published this week in the journal International Psychogeriatrics. Researchers found that people reported moderate or severe loneliness most often in their late 20s, their mid-50s, and their late 80s.
These times of loneliness are often associated with declines in both physical and mental health, as well as a decline in brain function, which can all add to stress. And a lot more people are lonely than the researchers expected: 76 percent of respondents told researchers that they were lonely.
"We thought that it would be little more than a third,” Dilip Jeste, senior author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego, told CNN.
"One thing to remember is that loneliness is subjective. Loneliness does not mean being alone; loneliness does not mean not having friends. Loneliness is defined as 'subjective distress.' "
There’s some good news in all the despair. Researchers said they found an “inverse relationship” between loneliness and wisdom. So if you’re wise, you might feel less alone. They measured six components of wisdom in study participants — general knowledge of life, emotional management, empathy or compassion, insight, acceptance of divergent values, and decisiveness — and the more these traits are cultivated, it’s possible that people will feel more fulfilled and less isolated.
Cover image by Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire URN:39934905 (Press Association via AP Images)