Kivran-Swaine, Funda (Rutgers University) | Ting, Jeremy (Rutgers University) | Brubaker, Jed Richards (University of California, Irvine) | Teodoro, Rannie (Rutgers University) | Naaman, Mor (Cornell Tech)
We studied the experience of loneliness as communicated by thousands of people on Twitter. Using a data set of public Twitter posts containing explicit expressions of loneliness, we qualitatively developed a categorization scheme for these expressions, showing how the context of loneliness expressed on Twitter relates to existing theories about loneliness. A quantitative analysis of the data exposed categories and patterns in communication practices around loneliness. For example, users expressing more severe, enduring loneliness are more likely to be female, and less likely to include requests for social interaction in their tweets. Further, we studied the responses to expressions of loneliness in Twitter’s social settings. Deriving from the same dataset, we examined factors that correlate with the existence and type of response, showing, for example, that men were more likely to receive responses to lonely tweets, and expressions of enduring loneliness are critically less likely to receive responses.
It's widely believed that older age is darkened by persistent loneliness. But a considerable body of research confirms this isn't the case. In fact, loneliness is the exception rather than the rule in later life. And when it occurs, it can be alleviated: It's a mutable psychological state. Only 30 percent of older adults feel lonely fairly frequently, according to data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, the most definitive study of seniors' social circumstances and their health in the U.S. "If anything, the intensity of loneliness decreases from young adulthood through middle age and doesn't become intense again until the oldest old age," said Louise Hawkley, an internationally recognized authority on the topic and senior research scientist at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
When the BBC launched the Loneliness Experiment on Valentine's Day 2018 a staggering 55,000 people from around the world completed the survey, making it the largest study of loneliness yet. Claudia Hammond, who instigated the project, looks at the findings and spoke to three people about their experiences of loneliness. If you have a good piece of news or a bad piece of news, it's not having that person to tell about it. Lacking those people in your life can be really hard." Michelle Lloyd is 33 and lives in London. She is friendly and chatty and enjoys her job - she seems to have everything going for her, but she feels lonely. She has lived in a few different cities so her friends are spread around the country and tend to be busy with their children at weekends. She does go for drinks with colleagues after work, but tells me it's the deeper relationships she misses.
Loneliness in the UK is no worse now than any time in the past 70 years, say leading experts. Despite widespread claims we are suffering an'epidemic of loneliness', no evidence exists to prove it. People reporting themselves as very lonely remains at around 10 per cent - and has done since the 1940s. Aparna Shankar, a population health researcher at London's St George's Hospital, said in one respect loneliness had increased in Britain because more people live there today than ever before. But she said the proportion of those feeling isolated remained the same.
Brain structure exhibits systematic relationships with a variety of an individual’s cognitive abilities and such relationships can be captured by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) that computes regional gray matter volume based on anatomical MRIs. This method has been successfully used to reveal brain regions that are associated with individual differences in a broad range of contexts such as perceptual performance, attention control, face recognition, introspection and personality traits. Here, we show that such relationships with brain structure extend to complex social behaviors by presenting our recent VBM studies that examined the relationships between brain structure and diverse aspects of socio-cognitive behavioral traits. Specifically, we identified brain regions in which individual differences in gray matter volumes were associated with political orientation, moral sentiment, empathy and loneliness. These findings suggest that information derived from standard MRI scans could be used to extract information about an individual’s real-world and online social behavior. Unlike conventional functional neuroimaging research, our structural neuroimaging approach does not require a virtual environment that emulates social interactions and thus can directly link brain structure to real-world human behavior. As such, our approach based on individual differences in brain structure and behavior provides an important anchor point that integrates genetic and environmental factors determining diversity of human cognition and behavior.