Loneliness is subjective

It's possible to be completely isolated and feel invigorated.

It is also possible to be surrounded by a crowd or be accompanied by close friends and feel lonely.

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Health

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Detecting Loneliness
  • Scientific literature has linked loneliness to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
  • Loneliness makes you more likely to fall ill by suppressing healthy immune function.
  • Biochemical changes from loneliness an accelerate cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's.
  • The ability to detect and measure it could help identify those at risk.
  • Research showed that after social isolation, subjects' brain scans showed more activity in the midbrain when shown pictures of social cues.
  • When subjects were hungry but had not been socially isolated, they showed a similar reaction to food cues, but not social ones. This shows that the drive for social contact and for things like food seems to be represented in a similar way.

Objectively measuring loneliness in the brain, as opposed to asking people how they feel, could give clarity on, for example, the connection between loneliness and depression. It could also shed some light on addiction.

The ability to measure loneliness may make it far easier to design targeted interventions.

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Motivation to learn

As people get older, they often lose their motivation to learn new things. This get-up-and-go attitude is vital for our social well-being and learning.

In order to survive, we need to be able to learn what is good for us, and what is bad for us. But, a person may value a reward so highly that the risk of experiencing a possible cost is ignored. Another may wish to avoid the cost to the exclusion of all rewards. This may result in reward-driven learning in some, and cost-driven learning in others.

At all stages of life, how we do friendship has to do with our natural desire for sociability and varies from person to person.

Friendship is a lifelong endeavor, although not everyone realizes it. If you only invest in friendships when your family and professional obligations slow, you will be at a disadvantage.

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