In the last few years, there has been increasing concern over loneliness and its effect on mental health. But what makes us feel lonely even when we are part of a peer group or a family? Recent research, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences attempted to answer this by exploring the role of age, gender, culture, and the interaction between these factors in deciding loneliness. The study found that loneliness increased with age, individualism, and was more common among men than women. The most vulnerable were young men who live in an individualistic culture.
These findings were based on data from the BBC Loneliness Experiment. The research team analyzed information gathered from 46,054 participants, aged 16–99 years. This largest survey of its kind had participants from 237 countries and various territories. The survey was conducted through a questionnaire which asked participants when they felt lonely, what was their experience of loneliness, and for how long did the experience last. It provided the researchers an opportunity to analyze how loneliness could vary across gender, age, and cultures. They also studied how these factors could work together.
The key findings which were:
- Young people reported feeling lonely more frequently than middle-aged people.
- The middle-aged participants, in turn, reported loneliness more than older people.
- People in individual countries reported feeling more lonely than people living in collectivist cultures.
- Men reported more loneliness than women.
- There is an interaction of age, gender, and culture in predicting loneliness.