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How finding purpose can help fight loneliness

A new study shows that having a sense of purpose in life can help fight loneliness

A new study shows how having a sense of purpose can help overcome loneliness. (Pixabay)
A new study shows how having a sense of purpose can help overcome loneliness. (Pixabay)

In recent times, specifically since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a renewed focus on loneliness as more people seem to understand how it's associated with overall health and well-being. A new study shows that having a sense of purpose can help protect against loneliness.

In 2004, almost million five million people in India lived alone and felt lonely, according to a 2022 report by Aspen Institute. By 2017, this number had increased, as shown in the findings by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, with 12% of youth in India reporting that they often felt depressed and 8% stating that they frequently felt lonely.

 Referring to a 2010 study published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the report defined loneliness as a "distressing feeling that accompanies the perception that one's social needs are not being met by the quantity or especially the quality of one's social relationships."

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The new study, led by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Zurich in Switzerland and Tilburg University in the Netherlands, is based on surveys of more than 2,300 adults in Switzerland. The findings showed that feelings of loneliness were less common in people who reported a purposeful life, regardless of their age, according to a press statement by Washington University at St Louis.

"Loneliness is known to be one of the biggest psychological predictors for health problems, cognitive decline, and early mortality," Hill said in the statement. He added that research shows that it can be as harmful to health as smoking or having a poor diet.

According to Hill, a sense of purpose is a general perception of something directing people from one day to the next. There are a range of activities that can provide this sense of purpose, such as joining a club, gardening, volunteering, or playing sports. The study found that people who received or provided social support were likely to report feelings of purpose.

However, often fighting loneliness is associated with surrounding yourself with people or participating in social interactions, which is not the case. "We have all had time in our lives when we've felt lonely even though we weren't actually alone," says Hill in the report. 

The study showed that having a sense of purpose seemed to fight loneliness regardless of how many other people were involved. Notably, the study also found that a sense of purpose can uplift the spirits of people in their 70s who reported loneliness.

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