As research over the past several decades demonstrated, loneliness respects no gender, age, marital status, geographical borders, or religious beliefs. Loneliness is a painful experience that may have short and long term consequences, physically, socially and emotionally. This book is a compilation of chapters written by internationally known researchers which wrote in an attempt to review the effects of loneliness on our lives, at different stations of our personal journeys.
The book opens with Snell’s discussion of history’s coverage and handling of loneliness, highlighting themes of health, coping strategies, theories of change, locational questions, and issues concerning the family and historical demography, and considers in this connection the marked growth of sole living in Western societies.
Richaud, Sacchi & Mesurado explored the relation between dimensions of the adolescent perception of parental relationship to adolescent functional/dysfunctional coping; the relation between adolescent feelings of loneliness to adolescent functional/dysfunctional coping. Additionally, the relation between the adolescent perception of parental relationship with their feelings of loneliness, and the relation between adolescent perceptions of parental relationship with coping, meditated by feelings of loneliness. The results suggest that even though during adolescence, parental styles keep acting on dysfunctional coping with conflict, they do so with less intensity in direct ways, but above all they influence feelings of loneliness and through these on coping.
Rokach highlights the effects of loneliness pointing out to its universality and that it may either be persistent and continuous or short lived. This chapter examines loneliness and its correlates in everyday life, and especially that experienced by school children, reviews what contributes to it, and what can be done to assist the children to cope with it.
Campbell examined the loneliness of youngsters, and ways of assisting them to address their loneliness. She observed that most children and adolescents experience loneliness at some time but for 10-20% of young people it can be severe and chronic, and that lonely young people often do not seek help. The author highlighted the innovative technological resources such as self-help information websites, social networking sites and web-based help-lines as some of the ways which lonely young people try to ameliorate their loneliness. These methods are cost effective, accessible, constantly updated and often provide anonymity. It is unknown how effective information sites are for loneliness but it is known that social networking sites such as Facebook do not always reduce feelings of loneliness. The reasons for loneliness in young people still not being addressed by technology are discussed.
Pavri shone a light on a common problem in schools: that of bullying and victimization of children. She reported statistics of the number of children affected, and it disconcerting, as large number of children are exposed to it. There is a good deal of research evidence, indicated Pavri that points out to the adverse impact that bullying has on a student’s academic adjustment, psychosocial adaptation, and attitudes toward school. Bullying has been found to result in social isolation, fear, anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, and insomnia. Loneliness, social anxiety, lower self-esteem, and depression are common outcomes for children and youth who have been bullied at school. Pavri concludes by pointing out that peer victimization destroys the fabric of positive social relationships and creates distrust, negativity, and alienation, and calls for the educational system to ameliorate the situation. She reviews several innovative programs that can aid in helping those who were bullied.
Rokach & Spirling concentrate on the transition to college and the major network changes, and the consequent loneliness experienced by students. These transitions are stressful and challenging and especially for students who may move away from home as they start university, leaving behind family and social support systems. The chapter reviews the literature regarding loneliness of university students, and includes the second author’s sharing of her own loneliness in university, during her undergraduate studies.
Segrin, Burke & Badger noted that for some people loneliness may stem from family of origin processes such as social learning or heritability. Loneliness, they found, is even possible in the context of romantic or marital relationships when the relationship exhibits markers of poor quality. This chapter reviews the lack of social integration which puts lonely people at risk for a range of negative outcomes, including health problems. Additional the numerous theoretical mechanisms which have been posited to explain the relationship between loneliness and poor health including stress processes, degraded recuperative processes, and compromised health behaviors, are described. The chapter provides an overview of the various studies, and offers some suggestions in regards to the loneliness-stress paradigm.
Junttila, Topalli, Kainulainen & Saari studied the predictors, interrelations, and self-evaluated consequences of loneliness among a population-level database of Finnish people. Their sample consisted of 17,258 Finnish adults aged 30 to 60 years. Based on lonely people´s self-reports, they found that loneliness has resulted in a great deal of negative health, psychosocial well-being, and economic related consequences. Overall, loneliness explained 57 percent of the men’s and 54 percent of the women’s health and psychosocial problems and 69 percent of the men’s and 59 percent of the women’s self-reported problems in drinking and eating. For economic problems, the corresponding values were 14 percent for men and 12 percent for women. The importance of identifying loneliness in the prevention of psychosocial and economic issues, substance abuse, and eating disorders and negative consequences on health is discussed. Based on their findings, the authors argue that there is a legitimate reason to consider loneliness as a form of social inequality and discuss the possible ways of intervening in the loneliness of individuals.
Ben-Zur & Michael’s study close the book. The authors explored the associations between marital status, coping, loneliness and wellbeing. Their analyses were based on data from 196 women and men who completed inventories assessing feelings of loneliness, and wellbeing measured by life satisfaction, positive affect and negative affect. The widowed and divorced respondents also assessed their coping strategies with widowhood or divorce, respectively. Marital status (married vs. widowed/divorced) moderated the effects of loneliness on wellbeing, with stronger negative associations of high loneliness with lower wellbeing in widowhood and divorce. The widowed and divorced persons differed, the widowed being higher than the divorced on emotion-focused coping and loneliness and lower on problem-focused coping, life satisfaction and positive affect. Moreover, problem-focused coping mediated the effects of widowhood vs. divorce on life satisfaction, positive affect and loneliness; and loneliness mediated the effects of both problem-focused and emotion-focused coping on wellbeing measures. These findings suggest that widowed and divorced individuals can benefit from interventions which apply strategies of problem-focused coping with loss or separation to modify loneliness and contribute to wellbeing.
To conclude, and as these nine chapters indicate, loneliness ‘strikes’ at any age, station in life, and personal characteristics. It has always been with us and it seems that it will so remain. This book is attempting to alert the academic community to the topic, and encourage research that will address coping strategies, and possibly even prevention, if that is possible.
York University, Toronto, Canada
Center for Academic Studies, Israel