An analysis, published in the online variant of Aging and Mental Health, suggests wisdom may be a protective factor against loneliness.
Over the last few decades, there has been growing concern about loneliness across all ages, especially in middle-aged and elderly adults. Loneliness, defined as feeling isolated or not having an adequate number of meaningful personal connections, is consistently related to aging that was unhealthy and has been identified as a major risk factor for general adverse health effects.
“An important finding from our study was a significant inverse correlation between loneliness and wisdom. People with higher scores on a measure of wisdom were less lonely and vice versa,” said Dilip V. Jeste, MD, lead investigator of the study, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
“Loneliness was consistently associated with poor general health, worse quality of sleep and less happiness, whereas the reverse was generally true for wisdom.”
The researchers found the inverse correlation between loneliness and wisdom in all four classes.
“Both loneliness and wisdom are personality traits. Most personality traits are partially inherited and partially determined by environment,” said Jeste.
Wisdom has several components, such as empathy, compassion, self-reflection and emotional regulation. Individuals who were more compassionate were less lonely.
“If we can increase someone’s compassion, wisdom is likely to go up and loneliness is likely to go down,” said David Brenner, MD, vice chancellor of UC San Diego Health Sciences. “At UC San Diego, we have considerable interest in enhancing empathy and compassion to reduce levels of stress and improve happiness and well-being.”
Jeste said studies which examine how to reduce loneliness as individuals Age will be crucial for successful interventions and the future of health care.
“Routine assessment of loneliness with evidence-based, compassion-focused interventions for prevention and management of loneliness should become an integral part of clinical practice. So how do you increase compassion? Utilizing approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy or writing in a gratitude diary can help someone become more compassionate,” he said.
Jeste noted that a limitation of the study was that it had been cross-sectional. Only longitudinal studies can establish cause-and-effect relationships. Next steps will include testing an Intervention to increase compassion for reducing solitude.
Related Journal Article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13607863.2020.1821170