Throughout our lives we can feel lonely in different ways. There will be stages in which we enjoy the chosen solitude, that which becomes a fertile ground for the soul, and there will be other stages in which we will feel alone – plain and simple.
There are certain circumstances that can make us feel lonely, such as the loss of a loved one, a breakup of a couple relationship or moving to a new city where we don’t know anyone.
However, a study conducted at the University of California found that there are also three vital moments in which we can suffer more loneliness, regardless of our gender or interpersonal relationships that we have been able to establish.
Loneliness strikes at different stages of our life
The researchers analyzed 340 people between the ages of 27 and 101 and found that in the late 20s, mid-50s and late 80s, we feel lonelier throughout life.
In fact, one third of the participants reported a high or moderate level of loneliness in these stages. However, these people did not suffer significant physical problems or mental disorders, such as depression, which usually aggravates the feeling of loneliness, so they are vital periods in which changes occur that make us feel more isolated and disconnected from the others.
These psychologists believe that we can feel lonelier at the end of the twenties because it is usually the time when we become independent from our parents and finish studying, so that we can also lose the connection with many friends.
Later, in the mid-50s, many people suffer from the empty nest syndrome as their children leave home and are forced to find a new balance, whether in the relationship or alone. At this stage they have more time for themselves, so they need to find new interests and activities.
Finally, after the eighties, loneliness is more likely to knock at our door again since we may have lost our partner, as well as many relatives and friends, so it is normal that at this age we feel alone again.
Loneliness as an opportunity to meet ourselves again
Sometimes loneliness knocks at our door. It is not a chosen loneliness but a product of the circumstances. In those cases it is important to refocus and take advantage of it as an opportunity to meet ourselves again.
A study conducted at the University of Chicago analyzed the MRI images of the brains of people who had chosen loneliness and discovered that they have different patterns of electrical activity, which are activated when they are alone and indicate that those people are looking for happiness in non-social activities.
People who enjoy loneliness show a reduced activity in the temporoparietal junction, a part of the brain linked to the perceptions of the others, so these neuroscientists think that this indicates that happiness can also be found in many other activities, beyond social relations. Therefore, sometimes we just need to rediscover what fills us and makes us happy.
Lee, E. et. Al. (2019) High prevalence and adverse health effects of loneliness in community-dwelling adults across the lifespan: role of wisdom as a protective factor. International Psychogeriatrics; 31(10: 1447-1462.
Cacioppo et al. (2009) In the Eye of the Beholder: Individual Differences in Perceived Social Isolation Predict Regional Brain Activation to Social Stimuli. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience; 21 (1): 83-92.