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Understanding Loneliness

Everyone feels lonely from time-to-time. It happens to us all. Yet, why do some people experience loneliness more than others? New research, discussed in an article by the Brisbane Times in Australia, is discovering the causes of loneliness and the role it plays in human development.

The article notes that rates of loneliness in the world, including Australia, is rising. Speculators might say this is because the bonds between people in modern societies have become less firm. Interestingly, researchers discovered that loneliness has a strong genetic component. Some people are biologically more likely to experience loneliness than others.

Researchers from the University of California analyzed data from 10,000 people that covered both health and genetic information. They found that people who experienced loneliness correlated with depression and neuroticism. This was true even if the individuals had strong social bonds, such as friends and family members.

This predisposition is called “negative affectivity.” This occurs when one is more likely to have, “negative emotions,” including loneliness.

Loneliness and Human Development

The research into loneliness also examines the condition from the human development angle. Researchers from the University of Chicago think that loneliness actually helped early human beings find protection through community. For example, a person might not want to leave their community or village for fear of being lonely.  

This also meant they were more willing to defend their community as well. Or, people would venture away from the village to explore other areas, but return. Loneliness was thus considered by the researchers as a “genetic predisposition” that helped spur the development of humans.

These thoughts were supported by studying mice in which parts of their brains that experience loneliness were stimulated. Dominant mice had the greatest response to the stimulation. The researchers hypothesized that loneliness can also make individuals desire social status in a community and work to keep that status too.

Want to learn more about research into loneliness? Read the full article here:  “The Power and Predisposition of Loneliness.”