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Loneliness is an unpleasant experience in which one perceives a relationship deficit —the sense that the quality or the number of one’s relationships are unsatisfactory, the awareness that there is a mismatch between one’s desired and one’s achieved quality or quantity of relationships.
It has been suggested that loneliness has multiple dimensions, including social and emotional ones.
People who experience social loneliness feel like they are not part of a group that shares their interests, that they do not belong.
Those who experience emotional loneliness feel they lack intimacy. For instance, though many singles tend to be happy and satisfied with life, “involuntary singles” tend to be unhappy because of high emotional loneliness (i.e., they desire but lack intimate attachments).
Social loneliness: An unpleasant feeling resulting from the perception of not belonging, a lack of social integration, or experiencing one’s social network as deficient. Those more likely to experience social loneliness include people who have moved to a new school or job or migrated to a new country.
Emotional loneliness: An unpleasant feeling resulting from the perception that one is missing an “intimate attachment relationship” or that the existing relationship is inadequate. Emotional loneliness is a very common experience in people who have recently divorced or become widowed.
A new study, published in the July issue of Psychiatry Research, discusses the differences between these two types of loneliness, including their risk factors.
The measure for both types of loneliness was De Jong Gierveld’s 11-item loneliness scale.
Risk factors associated with both types of loneliness (equal effect sizes) included being an immigrant and having a low income. Drinking and being physically active, in contrast, were linked with lower loneliness.
In some cases, effect sizes were not similar. For instance, living alone, being unmarried, psychological distress, and suicidal thoughts were more strongly correlated with emotional loneliness, whereas poor health and having multiple chronic diseases were more strongly correlated with social loneliness.
An analysis of the data showed that being female, of younger age, being a current smoker, and medium or higher educational level were linked with lower social loneliness. Having a paid job and a low body mass index were associated with lower emotional loneliness.
Why is it that people who exercise but also those who drink and smoke were less likely to feel lonely? Perhaps the association with smoking and drinking was due to participation in social events.
Social loneliness has two dimensions: it refers to a lack of connection with others and difficulties with integration into social networks. The reviewed research found that older men and those with lower education are more likely to experience social loneliness.
“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
New research shows social loneliness and emotional loneliness have shared and unique risk factors.
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