Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: October 03, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412956253 | Print ISBN: 9781412916707 | Online ISBN: 9781412956253| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Loneliness is defined as the distressing experience that occurs when one's social relationships are perceived to be less in quantity, and especially in quality, than desired. Being alone and experiencing loneliness are not the same thing. People can be alone without feeling lonely and can feel lonely even when with other people. Loneliness is associated with depressive symptoms, poor social support, neuroticism, and introversion, but loneliness is not synonymous with these psychological characteristics. Loneliness is typically thought of as a stable trait, with individual differences in the set-point for feelings of loneliness about which people fluctuate depending on the specific circumstances in which they find themselves. Loneliness changes very little during adulthood until 75 to 80 years of age when it increases somewhat. Loneliness puts people at risk for mental and physical disease and may contribute to a shortened life span. Although loneliness has always been part of human existence, ...