Summary: A person’s expectations of interpersonal relationships change dramatically as they age. Researchers say that even though most people don’t spend much time alone, they still feel lonely.

Source: Duke University

Not everyone’s holiday plans match a Hallmark card.

If “the most wonderful time of the year” isn’t your reality, you’re not alone. You may have an idea of ​​a holiday picture-perfect holiday season, but what actually happens doesn’t always measure up.

And that’s where loneliness comes in, says Samia Akhter-Khan, a graduate student at King’s College London, who is the first to produce a new study on the subject.

“Loneliness stems from a mismatch between expected and actual social interactions,” Akhter-Khan said.

From the Duke Psychology and Neuroscience Ph.D. Leon Lee, Akter-Khan and colleagues wrote a paper explaining why people feel lonely, especially in later life, and what we can do about it.

“The problem we identified in the current study is one we haven’t really thought about: what do people expect from their relationships?” Akhter Khan said. “We make a definition of these expectations, but we don’t really identify what those expectations are and how they change across cultures or ages.”

We expect certain basic things in every relationship. We all need people in our lives to whom we can ask for help. Friends we can call on when we need them. A person who talks. People who “get” us. Someone we can trust. Partners with whom we share pleasant experiences.

But the group’s theory, called the social expectations framework, suggests that older adults may have some relationship expectations that are neglected.

It was in the year 2010 that she got the first hint that the causes of actor Khan’s loneliness might be more complex than meets the eye. She spent a year studying aging in Myanmar from 2018 to 2019. First, she assumed that people generally do not feel lonely. People live in very close-knit and close-knit communities. People have big families; They are often close to each other. Why do people feel lonely?”

But her research suggested otherwise. “It turned out to be really different,” she said. Even if people don’t spend much time alone, they can still feel lonely.

What has been neglected in efforts to reduce loneliness is how our relationships change as we age, she says. What we want from social media, in the 30s, is not what we wanted in the 70s.

The researchers identified two age-specific expectations that were not taken into account. For one, adults want to feel respected. They want people to listen to them, follow their experiences, and learn from their mistakes. To appreciate the obstacles they have gone through and overcome.

They also want to contribute: giving back to others and their community and passing on traditions or skills through teaching and learning, volunteering, caring or other meaningful activities.

Finding ways to meet these needs as we age can go a long way to combating loneliness in later life, but research has largely left them out.

“Loneliness is not part of the standard scales,” Lee said.

Akter-Khan, who worked as a graduate research assistant at Duke’s Bus Connections Project in 2019-20, said one reason for the oversight is that older adults’ labor and contributions often go unrecognized in conventional economic indices. How Society Values ​​Care in the Global Economy.

This shows a woman standing alone.
From the Duke Psychology and Neuroscience Ph.D. Leon Lee, Akter-Khan and colleagues wrote a paper explaining why people feel lonely, especially in later life, and what we can do about it. The image is in the public domain.

She added: “Ageism and negative attitudes about aging don’t help. In the year A 2016 World Health Organization survey of 57 countries found that 60% of respondents said older people were not well respected.

Loneliness isn’t just for older people. “It’s also a youth problem,” says actor Khan. “If you look at the distribution of loneliness in the life span, there are two peaks, and one is in young age, and one is in old age.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, world leaders began sounding the alarm about loneliness as a public health issue. In the year In 2018, Britain became the first country to appoint a minister of privacy, followed by Japan in 2021.

watch out

This shows that one person is standing alone.

This is because loneliness is more than just a feeling – it can have a real impact on health. Chronic loneliness increases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and stroke, and other health problems. Some researchers suggest that smoking and obesity are more than comparable or more dangerous.

The researchers hope that if we can better understand the causes of loneliness, we can solve the problem.

About this relationship and aging research news

Author: Robin Smith
Source: Duke University
Contact: Robin Smith – Duke University
Image: The image is in the public domain.

Preliminary study: Open Access.
Understanding and addressing loneliness in the elderly: A social expectations frameworkBy Samia C. Akter-Khan et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science


Draft

Understanding and coping with loneliness in the elderly: A social expectations framework

Loneliness is experienced as a result of a discrepancy between expected and actual social interactions. Although this difference is widely considered to be the “main mechanism” of loneliness, previous studies and interventions have not adequately addressed the expectations of the elderly from their social relationships.

To address this gap and to inform research on loneliness in adults within broader developmental theories of the lifespan, we present a theoretical framework that outlines six key social relationships expected of older adults based on research in psychology, gerontology, and anthropology. Contacts, receiving care and support, closeness and understanding, enjoyment and shared interests, generation and contribution, and respect and valuing.

We also argue that a more complete understanding of loneliness across the lifespan requires attention to the effects of contextual factors (eg, culture, functional limitations, social network changes) on the expression and fulfillment of adults’ global and age-specific relational expectations. .

The proposed social relations expectations framework may inform future loneliness research and interventions for diverse aging populations.

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