Middle-aged Americans lonelier than ever before, study says

Loneliness can lead to depression, chronic illness and premature death

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Loneliness has become a major public health issue in the United States, as highlighted by a report from the U.S. Surgeon General. A recent study offers further details on this depressing trend, showing that middle-aged Americans experience greater loneliness than their European counterparts, as reported by The Conversation.

The study, published in American Psychologist, analyzed data from 53,000 adults aged 45-65 from the U.S. and 13 European countries, finding loneliness affects both baby boomers and Generation X.

Psychology professor Frank J. Infurna, a co-author of the study, said the study focused on middle-aged adults for numerous reasons.

“Middle-aged adults form the backbone of society by constituting a majority of the workforce. But they also face increasing challenges today, notably greater demands for support from both their aging parents and their children,” said Infurna.

Infurna also points out that following the Great Recession of 2007-2009, middle-aged Americans reported worse health, depression, and chronic illnesses compared to their European peers.

The study also found that overall levels of loneliness in the U.S. are consistently higher than in any other European nation or region, with middle-aged adults in England and Mediterranean Europe not far behind. In contrast, middle-aged adults in continental and Nordic Europe reported the lowest levels of loneliness. While the study did not directly test the reasons for these differences, it suggests that America’s limited social support, the cultural emphasis on individualism and the tendency to relocate more frequently may play a role.

Research has shown that loneliness can lead to sickness, depression, chronic illness and premature death. For those experiencing loneliness, the Surgeon General recommends investing time in nurturing relationships through consistent, frequent and high-quality engagement with others, seeking out opportunities to serve and support others and seeking help during times of struggle.