They say life begins at 40. But a new study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing says that more than a third of adults are lonely with peak incidence in their forties. Unemployed people reported a higher level of loneliness than people who were retired.
"Understanding what makes people lonely is very important as loneliness can increase the risk of health conditions, such as heart disease and depression, and other problems such as domestic violence" said Professor William Lauder from the University of Dundee, Scotland, who spent two years working in Australia. "One of the most interesting findings of this study is that it challenges the belief that retirement is linked to diminished social contacts and that people get lonelier as they get older." The study, conducted jointly by UK and Australian researchers found that 35 percent of the 1,289 people quizzed in a telephone interview in Queensland were lonely. The research co-authored by Professor Kerry Mummery from Central Queensland University and nursing lecturer Siobhan Sharkey from the University of Stirling in Scotland found that:
* It is a misconception that people get lonely with age. With the exception of 18-19 year-olds, it was found that people aged over 50 were least likely to be lonely.
* Strong belief in religion was found to be a remedy for loneliness.
* Women were found to have stronger religious beliefs and hence were less likely to say they felt lonely. There was no link between the length of residence in a particular community and the feeling of loneliness.
* People with low incomes reported high level of loneliness.
"Tackling loneliness is very important as it is a very common and potentially health-threatening phenomenon. Previous research has indicated that health wise it carries a similar level of risk to obesity," said Professor Lauder. "We hope that this study will provide health professionals and others with further insight into the causes of loneliness and support efforts to reduce health issues caused by the problem."
Main Article: Social capital, age and religiosity in people who are lonely. William Lauder, University of Dundee, UK; Kerry Mummery, Central Queensland University, Australia; Siobhan Sharkey, University of Stirling, UK. Journal of Clinical Nursing. Volume 15. Pages 334-340.
Contact: Annette Whibley
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.