Category Archives: Loneliness

Negative stereotypes trigger loneliness & dependency in older people

The attitudes that people have about ageing have been shown to have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing in later life. An interesting study focused on the impact of internalised ageism on feelings of loneliness and dependency.

The research found that exposure to a negative ageing-stereotype increased self-reported loneliness compared to a positive ageing-stereotype or a control condition. Additionally, participants were more risk averse in the negative age-stereotype condition than in the positive age-stereotype or control condition. The results highlight that the mere activation of negative stereotypes can cause older people to adopt a condition that is reminiscent of dependent states, where they complain about their loneliness but remain passive, avoiding any behavioural initiative or risk taking.

A second aspect of the research showed that priming ageing stereotypes influenced health perception and extraversion, with participants in the negative condition declaring being in a more deteriorated state of health and describing themselves as less extraverted than their counterparts in the positive stereotype condition. A crucial finding of this part of the research was the fact that stereotype priming impacts older people’s help-seeking behaviour. More specifically, a negative age-stereotype priming increased help-seeking compared to a positive age stereotype priming.

The researchers concluded that the implications of their findings were straightforward – “The mere activation of a negative stereotype leads older individuals to feel lonely, to depreciate their health status, to avoid taking any risks and to systematically seek for help in their social environment. These effects are similar to those symptoms that are frequently encountered in an institutionalized context of enhanced dependency.”

The research can be accessed here.

Mindfulness has the power to reduce people’s experience of loneliness

Lonely older adults have increased risk of illness and premature death. Various behavioural treatments have attempted to reduce loneliness and its associated health risks, but have had limited success. This study tested whether the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program (compared with a control group) reduces loneliness and reduces the inflammation often associated with loneliness in older adults. Consistent with study predictions, the MBSR program reduced loneliness, compared to small increases in loneliness in the control group. This work provides an initial indication that MBSR may be a novel treatment approach for reducing loneliness and related inflammation in older adults.

To access the full study click this link.

Understanding the psychological drivers of loneliness

The purpose of this paper is to outline the need to develop a more balanced approach to addressing the various types of loneliness experience by older people by recognising the psychological and emotional dynamics which cause it. It proposes a more holistic psychosocial approach to loneliness. This requires urgent attention given the very weak evidence base for the current ‘socially based’ interventions. There is a need to develop approaches which address loneliness ‘from the inside out’, rather than just continuing to try and get lonely people to join groups.

Access to the full article can be found here (behind paywall)