How to Value Individuality and Create an Enstatic School
Chapter 3: The Science of Loneliness and Solitude: Psychological and Evolutionary Accounts
The Science of Loneliness and Solitude: Psychological and Evolutionary Accounts
I have felt lonely when my dad died and I felt lonely for a while— KIERA (aged 12–13)
Introduction: A Healthy Concern
Coming to understand loneliness and solitude is harder than might be expected. This chapter provides a broadly scientific account of loneliness and solitude, notably, the views of psychologists and evolutionary biologists. Some scientists see the suffering in loneliness as having evolved to help people survive as social animals. Others look to more individual causes. Scientific approaches overlap with philosophical and other approaches (considered in the following chapter), and the boundaries are a little blurred, but it is worth considering here how some scientists have studied the topic, their methods of working as well as their conclusions.
For a long time, there was all too little scientific study of loneliness. There has been even less scientific study of solitude as distinct from loneliness, and the two concepts have often been conflated by scientists. Yet over the last 40 years, and even more over the last 20 years, interesting work has been done and this has recently gained a high public profile because of its perceived connection to health. For example, a scientific understanding of loneliness in old age led to the setting up of the ‘campaign to end loneliness’, which quotes Holt-Lunstad in saying that ‘lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking...
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