Adults suffer from loneliness in different ways 'depending on age'

Loneliness in adult life is experienced differently depending on what age you are, a new scientific study suggests.  

Factors associated with feelings of loneliness, such as contact with friends and family, perceived health and employment, differ throughout adult life, scientists say. 

Researchers found that these various factors caused loneliness in different measures across three age groups – young adults, the middle aged and the old aged. 

Younger adults were more impacted by a lack of contact with their friends, for example, while in older adults, perceived health and lack of contact with family members were factors associated with loneliness.

Dutch scientists say their findings mean there can be no 'one-size-fits-all approach' to combating loneliness, which has become a huge problem during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The team speculate that people missing out on what they think is the norm for people of their age – such as young people have fun out with friends – can trigger lonely feelings.  

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Loneliness in adult life is experienced differently depending on age, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health

Loneliness in adult life is experienced differently depending on age, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health 

'Our results also suggest that during the current Covid-19 pandemic, feelings of loneliness among adults may be impacted in different ways according to the important factors of their life phase,' said study author Thanee Franssen at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. 

'For example, young adults are not able to interact with their friends or classmates face-to-face any more. 

'This may need to be taken into account when considering the impact on loneliness of the current pandemic.' 

Researchers at Maastricht University and in the Public Health Service South-Limburg in the Netherlands used data collected from September to December 2016 for their study. 

They examined associations between demographic, social and health-related factors and loneliness in 6,143 young people (between 19 and 34 years), 8,418 early middle-aged people (35 to 49 years) and 11,758 late middle-aged adults (50 to 65 years). 

The study, published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, found that overall, 10,309, or 44.3 per cent of the individuals in total, reported experiencing loneliness. 

Among young adults, 2,042 (39.7 per cent) reported feelings of loneliness, compared to 3,108 (43.3 per cent) early-middle aged adults and 5,159 late middle-aged adults (48.2 per cent). 

The researchers found a number of common factors associated with loneliness across all of the age groups. 

These included living

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