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Causes of loneliness differ dependent on your generation, study finds

Caroline Allen
Contributor
Loneliness is not a one-size fits all feeling. (Getty Images)

Loneliness doesn’t discriminate based on age, but it does differ in its reason for presenting itself dependent on what generation you’re from.

New research by the University of Edinburgh has found that the causes of loneliness differ generationally, with some reasons more prevalent in people of certain ages.

One of the main causes of loneliness in the elderly is living alone.

Comparatively, loneliness in middle aged people is more linked to personality traits.

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There are also some traits which transcend generations.

People who are outgoing or emotionally-resilient in stressful situations are less likely to feel lonely no matter what age they are.

People over 70 struggled with the associated loneliness that comes with living alone, but this problem is especially prevalent in men.

This study isn’t the first to conclude that men suffer more acutely with loneliness.

A recent YouGov poll found that one in five men admit to having no close friends. Further research in this area also found that 44% of men felt lonely sometimes, often or all the time.

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Psychologists examined data from more than 4000 people older than 45 for loneliness, personality traits, and living circumstances.

People were asked to rate how lonely they felt with their personality traits and living situations also noted.

For research purposes, it counted people in “mid-life” as being aged between 45 and 69-years-old.

People aged 70 and above slotted into the elderly age bracket.

Despite loneliness in elderly people being widely reported, the research found the rates of loneliness to be remarkably similar amongst both age groups.

Regardless of age, people who were more “emotionally balanced” were 60% less likely to feel the impact of loneliness.

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Social isolation wasn’t one of the primary drivers of loneliness for people aged between 45 and 69.

At aged 70 and above, though, people were four times more likely to feel lonely because of social isolation.

Dr. Drew Altschul, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: “The use of machine learning in this study allows us to identify and replicate differences in what risk factors are linked to loneliness in middle and older age people.

“Loneliness is a growing public health issue, identifying the things that precede loneliness is difficult, however, contemporary machine learning algorithms are positioned to help identify these predictors.”

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The research concluded that while there are some similarities between all age groups in relation to loneliness - having an outgoing personality trait, for example - there are also some differences to note.

The main difference is that the middle-aged group were less likely to be impacted by living alone in the same way that people over 70 were.

This research makes it all the more important to reach out to elderly relatives and neighbours who are living alone and check in to see how they’re getting on.