Psychologists Xinyue Zhou and Ding-Guo Gao from Sun Yat-Sen University, along with Constantine Sedikides and Tim Wildschut from the University of Southampton explored the connection between loneliness and nostalgia.
They conducted a series of experiments that had participants answer questions related to feelings of loneliness, social support and nostalgia.
The participants included kids, college students and factory workers. In addition, the factory workers were also assessed on their resilience (their ability to recover from traumatic events and adverse life situations).
The researchers found that individuals who felt the loneliest reported receiving the least amount of social support. However, these participants turned out to be the most nostalgic.
Also, when nostalgia was induced in a number of the study participants, they in turn perceived to have the greatest amount of social support.
These findings suggest that nostalgia amplifies perceptions of social support, and in this way, counteracts feelings of loneliness.
Besides this, the findings revealed that the most resilient individuals are more likely to use nostalgia to overcome feelings of loneliness.
According to researchers, these results have very important implications to clinical psychology and indicate that nostalgia may be used in cognitive therapy, as a coping mechanism that individuals turn to when they are confronted with social exclusion.
They suggest that individuals could be trained to benefit from the restorative function of nostalgia when actual social support is lacking or is perceived as lacking.
The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.