Study suggests that the pandemic has increased loneliness worldwide, but not as drastically as feared

Study suggests that the pandemic has increased loneliness worldwide, but not as drastically as feared

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has increased loneliness around the world, but according to new research, it may not be as bad as feared.

The research, which looked at 34 studies related to loneliness before and during the pandemic, was published in the Journal of American Psychologist Monday.

The study indicates that the increase in loneliness during the pandemic was not as significant as expected, with an increase of about 5% in the prevalence of loneliness.

But researchers caution that any increase in loneliness could have long-term health effects and should be closely monitored.

“The pandemic appears to have increased feelings of loneliness,” Marieki Ernst, the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “Given the small effect sizes, dire warnings about a ‘unity pandemic’ may be exaggerated. However, because loneliness poses a risk to premature mortality and mental and physical health, it must be closely monitored. We believe that unity should be a priority in broad research projects. scope aimed at investigating the health outcomes of the epidemic.”

How does one measure loneliness?

The researchers note that while social isolation certainly resulted from life-saving measures such as lockdown and physical distancing, this is not an individual association with loneliness. A person can be socially isolated rather than lonely depending on close support systems and a sense of self, just as they can be socially attached and still experience significant loneliness.

The paper defined loneliness as “the painful feeling – or ‘social pain’ – resulting from a discrepancy between quantity (eg, number of social contacts per day) and/or quality (referring to subjective experience of characteristics such as affection, intimacy, or conflict) of desirable and actual social ties.”

To try to track this, the researchers looked at previous, high-quality longitudinal studies that included some component of measuring loneliness, usually through surveys or questionnaires that required participants to report feeling lonely over a period of time.

They examined 34 studies from four continents, which included more than 215,000 participants in total, and compared studies published in 2019 before the pandemic with studies published during the pandemic, as well as studies that included a pre-pandemic component and during.

By pooling the study results, they built a picture of the prevalence of loneliness before and during the pandemic.

“Assessments during the pandemic resulted in higher scores of persistent loneliness than did pre-pandemic assessments,” the study authors said.

“The current study expands prior knowledge of changes in loneliness during a pandemic; however, the observed increase must be interpreted with caution: On the one hand, loneliness can be considered an unsatisfactory natural reaction to changing conditions and many people experience it at some point in their lives. On the other hand, it has shown Previous research shows that persistent or chronic loneliness puts mental and physical health at risk.”

The study authors note that more research is needed on this topic, in order to better identify the factors that lead to loneliness, as well as who are most at risk.

“Strong evidence to support interventions that treat loneliness is still limited,” Ernst said. “The increased loneliness associated with the pandemic highlights the need for a concerted effort to strengthen that evidence base.”

There are many limitations to the search. The authors note that while they wanted to provide a review of all the research on this topic that falls into their specifications, many of the studies have different designs or different time periods that may have influenced the data, and may have left out certain groups.

The study also indicated that there was a risk of bias in some of the studies reviewed, and that when they narrowed the pooled data to longitudinal study designs and studies with moderate risk of bias, the increase in loneliness during the pandemic appeared to be greater, indicating that “the pooled effect in the current study It may underestimate the effects on the at-risk population.”

The majority of the studies also came from wealthy Western countries in Europe and North America, which means that the results may not be applicable to other regions of the world.

2022-05-10 03:30:15

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