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Loneliness

New Perspectives on Loneliness

Although loneliness is a familiar condition, scientists are only now beginning to look at its causes, consequences, and possible treatments.

Researchers developed a special section in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, to bring together a summary of scientific research into loneliness.

According to a release from the association, the section, edited by psychological scientist David Sbarra of the University of Arizona, investigates loneliness across multiple levels, from evolutionary theory to genetics to social epidemiology.

“As a group, these articles set the bar high for future research on loneliness,” Sbarra writes in his introduction to the special section. “At the same time, they also contain ‘something for everyone’ — they are accessible, thought-provoking ideas that can be tackled from many different perspectives.”

Among the conclusions:

J.T. Cacioppo, of the University of Chicago, and colleagues theorize that loneliness isn’t unique to humans. Instead, it may be part of a biological “warning system,” they said. Like hunger or pain, loneliness may increase chances of survival and reproduction.

Luc Goossens, of the University of the University of Leuven, in Belgium, is leading a team of investigators that are exploring a possible genetic basis for loneliness. That research, the association said in a news release, highlights “the need to integrate a whole range of approaches, from genomics to behavioral science, in understanding the underpinnings of loneliness.”

Another study included in the section demonstrated a link between social isolation, loneliness, living alone and greater odds of mortality. Two others analyzed the teaching of social skills as a way to lessen loneliness and showed  that people of all ages have an urge to reconnect in order to lessen loneliness.

The special section is available online at: http://pps.sagepub.com/content/10/2.toc#SpecialSectiononLoneliness

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