Tag Archives: loneliness

The Human Development faculty have been sharing their expertise on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the public.

 

Valerie Reyna

Lois and Melvin Tukman Professor of Human Development, Director of the Human Neuroscience Institute, and Co-director of the Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research

Valerie Reyna, professor of human development, studies the neuroscience of risky decision making and its implications for health and well-being. She says changing advice contributes to the perception that experts might not know what they are doing, which is false. Emotions and actions in reaction to a risk depend crucially on how people understand the gist of the risk.  Providing the facts is important, but it is how people interpret those facts that determine behavior. Dr. Reyna participated in a Newswire roundtable of experts (click here for the link to the video) and discussed how her research can help the public better understand the risks of the virus and improve their decisions about how to respond to it. She also participated in a roundtable discussion organized by the Association for Psychological Science (click here for the link to the transcript).


Qi Wang 

Qi Wang

Professor of Human Development

Qi Wang, professor of human development, is able to address impacts of social distancing in the current context of COVID-19. She says social isolation can cause loneliness, but people can be proactive to counter the negative ramifications by staying connected via social media and other technological means.


Karl Pillemer 

Karl Pillemer

Director Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College

Karl Pillemer, expert on human development and social relationships, is available to discuss the impact of surviving crisis from the perspective of a generation who has done it before. His work is informed by interviews with people who lived through the Great Depression, World War II and the 1918 Influenza.


Anthony Ong 

Anthony Ong

Professor of Human Development

Anthony Ong, professor of human development, can talk about the emotional impacts of self isolation. He says while self isolation may intensify feelings of loneliness, it’s also an opportunity to connect virtually and learn from each other.

FEATURES

Elaine Wethington elected fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science

Elaine Wethington is elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. Dr. Wethington is recognized for distinguished contributions to medical sociology.


Aging stereotypes are bad for older adults' health

Corinna Loeckenhoff says that shifting stereotypes is no simple feat. People develop their views on aging when they are toddlers, but they also change based on experience. Unfortunately, negative beliefs are often built on inaccurate impressions.


Combating loneliness important for a healthy, long life

Research has found that loneliness is a known risk factor for cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, disability and depression. Anthony Ong urges addressing the direct, indirect, and moderated effects of social isolation and loneliness on health.


Access Cornell Race and Empathy Project online

Since its launch in September 2016, the Cornell Race and Empathy Project has recorded, archived and shared the everyday stories of Cornellians that evoke racial empathy. To continue fostering the ability to identify and understand the feelings of someone of a different background, the project has evolved into an online presence.


MULTIMEDIA

John Eckenrode - What is translational research?

John Eckenrode

John Eckenrode and Karl Pillemer discuss the origins of translational research, and how it differs from "basic" and "applied" research. There are some examples of translational research projects and throughout the conversation they touch on why this research method is so effective and more and more in-demand by funders, policymakers and practitioners.


STUDENTS IN THE NEWS

The Human Development Graduate Program - an interview with Tamar Kushnir's students

Three of Tamar Kushnir's graduate students--Teresa Flanagan, Alyssa Varhol, and Alice Xin Zhao--reflect on what led them to work with Dr. Kushnir and enroll in the Department of Human Development Graduate Program.


 

CNN.com, "Loneliness peaks at three key ages, study finds -- but wisdom may help,December 19, 2018, by Susan Scutti

Rising rates of loneliness may not be news, but the three periods when it peaks may come as a surprise: More people reported feeling moderate to severe loneliness during their late 20s, their mid-50s and their late 80s than in other life periods, according to research published Tuesday in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

The general sense of isolation was also more prevalent than the researchers expected. A full three-quarters of all study participants reported moderate to high levels of loneliness, said Dr. Dilip Jeste, senior author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego.

"One thing to remember is that loneliness is subjective. Loneliness does not mean being alone; loneliness does not mean not having friends," said Jeste, who is also director of UC San Diego's Center for Healthy Aging. "Loneliness is defined as 'subjective distress.' " It is the discrepancy between the social relationships you want and the social relationships you have, he said.

Within the dark clouds, Jeste also found a silver lining: An inverse relationship exists between loneliness and wisdom. "In other words, people who have high levels of wisdom didn't feel lonely, and vice versa," he said.

The friends we lack

Dr. Vivek Murthy, former US surgeon general, says the reduced lifespan linked to loneliness is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, Jeste noted in the study's introduction. Meanwhile, some research suggests that loneliness is common in old age, and others say it is typical in young age. "They are somewhat split, so that's what we wanted to find out," Jeste said.

A total 340 San Diego County residents between the ages 27 and 101 participated in the study. Jeste and his co-authors hypothesized that these community-dwelling participants, none with serious physical or psychological ailments, would report more loneliness in old age based on the "usual assumption that as people get older, they become more alone," he said. They were surprised when they discovered two peaks (during the late 20s and mid-50s) in addition to the one in the late 80s. The results do not explain the reasons why people feel lonely, but Jeste had his theories.

"So the late 20s is often a period of major decision-making, which is often stressful because you often end up feeling that your peers made better decisions than you did, and there's a lot of guilt about why you did this or did that," he explained. It's a period of stress, which increases loneliness, he said.

"The mid-50s is the midlife crisis period," Jeste said. Typically, your health begins to decline, and many people learn that they have pre-diabetes, say, or heart disease.

"You see some of your friends are dying, and really, it's the first time you realize that your lifespan is not forever," he added. "And the late 80s is, of course, a period when, if you're lucky to have survived to that age, then things start getting worse." Along with health issues, you may experience financial issues and the death of a spouse and friends, he said: "It's probably the most understandable of the three periods."

The surprising main finding of the study was the 76% prevalence of moderate to severe loneliness, Jeste said: "We thought that it would be little more than a third." Men and women felt equally lonely and to the same degree -- no sex differences were found in either prevalence or severity, he and his colleagues found.

The study also showed that loneliness is associated with declines in physical health, mental health and cognition, though this has been reported in the past.

The third main finding, the inverse relationship between loneliness and wisdom, was "surprising and interesting and actually positive -- an optimistic finding," according to Jeste. He and his colleagues measured the six components of wisdom in each participant: general knowledge of life; emotion management; empathy, compassion, altruism and a sense of fairness; insight; acceptance of divergent values; and decisiveness -- the ability to make quick, effective decisions when necessary.

The traits we need to develop

Anthony Ong

This inverse association between loneliness and wisdom is "suggestive of the role of personality in the development and persistence of loneliness over time," said Anthony Ong, a professor of human development at Cornell University and a professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The focus on wisdom as a protective factor is "novel, but more research is needed to clarify the mechanisms underlying the reported association between wisdom and loneliness," Ong, who was not involved in the new research, wrote in an email.

A "full understanding" of the phenomenon of loneliness is far from complete, Ong said. "Questions remain about whether the associations between loneliness and health reflect the effects of loneliness." Research has found that loneliness is a known risk factor for cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, disability and depression.

Ong added that more studies "addressing the direct, indirect, and moderated effects of social isolation and loneliness on health are urgently needed."

"More research is also needed to clarify the brain mechanisms underlying the association between loneliness and cognitive decline in old age and the extent to which such decline is reversible through intervention," he said. He believes that combating loneliness "may play an important role in improving well-being and prolonging life."

Jeste agrees that more research is needed and that answering the question, "How do you reduce loneliness?" is the "main goal." With suicide, opioid abuse and now loneliness all at "epidemic" levels, Jeste believes there is "increasing stress in general society over the last few decades."

"People need to realize that [loneliness] is a common problem. It is a serious problem," said Jeste, who suggested that the six component traits of wisdom might be cultivated. "Loneliness is sad; nobody disagrees with that," he said. "But it is a little bit more under our control than some people think."