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Loneliness Found to Be More Common in Young People, Men, Certain Societies

A new large-scale global study finds that young people, men, and people of specific cultures or societies report higher levels of loneliness.

In the BBC Loneliness Experiment, U.K. researchers analyzed responses from more than 46,000 participants around the world, with the ages of participants ranging from 16-99.

Investigators discovered a steady decrease in loneliness as people age. That is, younger people reported more loneliness than the middle-aged, and the middle-aged reported more loneliness than older people.

Another unique finding is that men report more loneliness that women. Overall, researchers discovered age, gender, and culture interact to predict loneliness.

The study appears in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Based on the findings, a young man living in an individualistic society such as the U.K. or U.S. is more likely to report feeling lonely than an older woman in a collectivist society like China or Brazil.

The study was carried out by Exeter, Manchester and Brunel universities.

“Contrary to what people may expect, loneliness is not a predicament unique to older people,” said Professor Manuela Barreto, of the University of Exeter. “In fact, younger people report greater feelings of loneliness.”

Since loneliness stems from the sense that one’s social connections are not as good as desired, this might be due to the different expectations younger and older people hold.”

Barreto noted that the age pattern they seems to hold across many countries and cultures.

Professor Pamela Qualter, from the University of Manchester, said, “With regard to gender, the existing evidence is mixed.

“There is an awareness that admitting to feeling ‘lonely’ can be especially stigmatizing for men. However, when this word is not used in the measures, men sometimes report more loneliness than women. This is indeed what we found.”

Using survey responses from 237 countries, islands and territories, the researchers were able to carry out an unprecedented analysis of cultural differences.

“This is particularly important because evidence for cultural differences in loneliness is very mixed and culture can affect actual and desired social interactions in opposite directions,” said Barreto.

“In addition, it can be argued that admitting to feeling lonely is also more stigmatizing in individualistic societies, where people are expected to be self-reliant and autonomous.

“Again, our use of a measure that did not directly refer to loneliness allowed us to show that people living in more individualistic societies report more loneliness than people living in more collectivist societies.”

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Barreto said particular attention should be paid to how social changes might be affecting young people.

“Though it is true that younger people are better able to use technology to access social relationships, it is also known than when this is done as a replacement, rather than an extension, of those relationships, it does not mitigate loneliness,” she said.

Source: University of Exeter

Loneliness Found to Be More Common in Young People, Men, Certain Societies

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Loneliness Found to Be More Common in Young People, Men, Certain Societies. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 31 May 2020 (Originally: 30 May 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 31 May 2020
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