Loneliness is characterized by a lack of desired social connection and support. One does not necessarily need to be alone to be lonely. The condition is associated with feelings of sadness, isolation, and worthlessness. Far from peaceful solitude, it is painful and empty. A new study reveals that loneliness and depression are connected, creating major implications for many people suffering from loneliness.
The Prevalence of Loneliness and Depression
Of eighteen countries surveyed, the United States fell into the top one-quarter in terms of average loneliness levels. The World Health Organization reports that more than 350 million people suffer from depression. The wide prevalence of loneliness does not make it any less serious, as this condition is considered a risk factor in diminished cognitive abilities, high blood pressure, and psychological impairments.
Loneliness has long been associated with unhappiness, lack of confidence, and even stress and hostility. Recent research indicates a link between loneliness and depression, adding another negative psychological outcome to the list. According to research conducted on 229 middle-aged adults, loneliness persisted across the five years studied and had a major impact on the increase of depression symptoms.
The researchers reported that a two-year period of loneliness was a more significant predictor of depression later in life than was either self-esteem or previous depression. A significant finding of the study was that intervention to reduce loneliness could significantly reduce symptoms of depression. The earlier the intervention began, the more substantial the reduction for depression. For example, reducing loneliness two years prior to a diagnosis of depression had a more positive impact on depression reduction than did reducing loneliness one year prior to depression diagnosis.
Breaking the Loneliness and Depression Tie
Depression can be debilitating so taking steps to prevent it is recommended. According to this study, reducing loneliness may help to reduce or eliminate future depression. Changing the state of mind is one recommended approach because it can change perceptions of others and oneself. Loneliness tends to perpetuate itself so reassessing a situation in a new way can alter perspective, feelings, and behavior.
No matter how hard they try, some people are unable to prevent themselves from becoming lonely. If the situation persists or worsens, they should take steps to prevent the onset of depression. Treatments that may prove effective include psychotherapy, medication, exercise therapy, and brain stimulation.