A new study shows that having a sense of purpose in life can help combat loneliness
In recent times, specifically since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a renewed focus on loneliness as more people seem to understand how it is associated with general health and well-being. A new study shows that having a sense of purpose can help protect against loneliness.
In 2004, nearly 1.5 million people in India lived alone and felt lonely, according to a 2022 report from the Aspen Institute. By 2017, this number had risen, as shown by findings from the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, with 12% of youth in India reporting that they often felt depressed and 8% stating that with They often felt alone.
Referencing a 2010 study published in the journal Annals of behavioral medicinethe report defined loneliness as a “distressing feeling that accompanies the perception that one’s social needs are not being met by the quantity or especially the quality of one’s social relationships.”
The new study, led by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Zurich in Switzerland and Tilburg University in the Netherlands, is based on surveys of more than 2,300 adults in Switzerland. The findings showed that feelings of loneliness were less common in people who reported purposeful living, regardless of their age, according to a news release from Washington University in St. Louis.
“Loneliness is known to be one of the strongest psychological predictors of poor health, cognitive decline, and early mortality,” Hill said in the statement. She added that research shows that it can be just as harmful to health as smoking or having a poor diet.
According to Hill, a sense of purpose is a general perception of something that drives people from one day to the next. There are a variety of activities that can provide this sense of purpose, such as joining a club, gardening, volunteering, or playing sports. The study found that people who received or provided social support likely reported feelings of purpose.
However, many times fighting loneliness is associated with surrounding yourself with people or participating in social interactions, which is not the case. “We’ve all had moments in our lives when we felt alone, even though we weren’t really alone,” Hill says in the report.
The study showed that having a sense of purpose seemed to combat loneliness regardless of how many other people were involved. Notably, the study also found that a sense of purpose can lift the spirits of people in their 70s who reported loneliness.