Loneliness, this contemporary evil. It can be paradoxical. Thanks to technological progress, we can communicate more easily. At the same time, they isolate us. How is this perception distributed in society? How is loneliness perceived in the world? A study was dedicated to this current topic.
It is defined as the difference between the actually maintained and the desired social relationships. Loneliness is a phenomenon that has a negative impact on people’s well-being. It has a huge impact on national health services and economies around the world. The UK’s annual impact of loneliness is estimated at EUR 2.8 billion per year. Do you understand why it is worrying?
Looking for answers and trends
The universities of Exeter, Manchester and Brunel devoted themselves to this study. Named Loneliness around the world: age, gender and cultural differences in loneliness. It is based on responses from more than 46,000 participants worldwide. Age, gender and culture are the 3 key factors. Young people, men and people in “individualistic” societies report a higher level of loneliness.
“This is a very large data set that comes from the general population. There are participants from 237 countries. The age is between 16 and 99 years. This gives us the unique opportunity to examine how gender, culture and age affect the experience of loneliness. “The authors of the article published in Science Direct this week explain this.
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A young man who lives in an individualistic society like the United Kingdom or the United States is more likely to feel alone than an older woman in a collectivist society like China or Brazil. The results also show a steady decrease in loneliness with age.
“Loneliness is not an exclusive problem for older people,” explains Manuela Barreto. She is a professor at the University of Exeter. “Younger people report a greater feeling of loneliness,” he adds. “It could be due to the different expectations that younger and older people have,” he continues. “This age pattern that we discovered seems to apply in different countries and cultures.”
Pamela Qualter of the University of Manchester says: “The evidence is mixed on gender. “There is a belief that admitting to feeling lonely can be stigmatizing for men. But if this word is not used directly in interviews, men often report more loneliness than women. “
The researchers examined how culture influences loneliness. «The cultural differences in loneliness are very different. Culture can influence real and desired social interactions in opposite directions, “continues Barreto.
“Loneliness is also more stigmatizing in individualistic societies. People are expected to be self-sufficient and autonomous. Using formulas where loneliness was not directly mentioned, we were able to show that people who live in more individualistic societies report more loneliness. “
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They also particularly refer to the recent pandemic of COVID-19. Barreto suggests paying attention to how social changes could affect young people. “Younger people can better use technology to gain access to social relationships. But if this is done as a replacement and not as an extension of these relationships, loneliness will not be alleviated. “The question remains how technology affects our relationship. The loneliness in the world seems to be spreading contrary to what one might think. Contrary to what one would expect. And you, do you feel alone now?