The researchers, at the University of Chicago, investigated loneliness in young people and older people. What they found was that middle age and older people all reported equal numbers of stressful life events. However, those who were lonely perceived similar life challenges as more threatening and felt more helpless by these events, they were also less likely to seek help when stressed out.
In this study, lonely people had higher levels of the hormone epinephrine. Epinephrine is a stress hormone which is involved in the ?fight or flight? response. Increased levels of this hormone may mean that lonely people are in high states of arousal. The results suggest that loneliness contributes to the body?s wear and tear and that this might become more apparent with age. In addition to this, the researchers monitored young peoples sleep and found that lonely nights disturbed their sleep with many ?micro awakenings? Usually the body uses sleep as a time for the restorative process to counteract the damage caused by stress. Not only did lonely nights disturb this restorative process but also lonely people reported more day time dysfunctions.
What this research highlights is that loneliness may have adverse effects on the ageing process. The authors emphasise that loneliness is not the same as solitude. Solitude is necessary for some people and can have a positive impact on well-being. Loneliness, on the other hand, may have adverse effects on people?s general health and well-being. To read about this click here