Fighting loneliness: how to find purpose and overcome it


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Loneliness has become a pressing issue in modern society, affecting individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The negative impact of Loneliness on mental and physical well-being is well-documented, making it crucial to explore practical strategies for combating this pervasive issue. One promising approach is finding purpose in life, as it has been shown to provide a sense of meaning, connection, and fulfillment.

The study aims to examine the relationship between finding purpose and fighting Loneliness, exploring how the pursuit and discovery of purpose can serve as a powerful antidote to Loneliness. By shedding light on this important connection, we can better understand the potential benefits of purpose-driven living and develop interventions to alleviate Loneliness and improve overall well-being.

In a groundbreaking study at Washington University in St. Louis co-authored by Patrick Hill, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, a significant message emerges: having a sense of purpose in life, whether it involves a noble mission to create change or a personal hobby with meaning, can serve as a powerful defense against Loneliness. This study highlights the importance of purpose in combating feelings of isolation, providing valuable insights for our current era.

Hill said, “Loneliness is known to be one of the biggest psychological predictors for health problems, cognitive decline, and early mortality. Studies show that smoking or having a poor diet can be as harmful to health.”

A recent study conducted in Switzerland, involving surveys of over 2,300 adults, discovered that individuals who reported leading a purposeful life experienced lower levels of Loneliness, regardless of age. This insightful research, co-authored by Mathias Allemand from the University of Zurich and Gabriel Olaru from Tilburg University, Netherlands, sheds light on the positive impact of having a sense of purpose.

Participants were asked to evaluate their feelings of Loneliness, companionship, and social exclusion over four weeks. They also completed the Life Engagement Test, which assessed their perception of purpose in life. The study highlights that a sense of purpose can be found in various aspects, such as gardening, supporting family, or achieving professional success, and underscores its potential in combating Loneliness.

Engaging in activities that provide a sense of purpose, such as joining clubs, volunteering, or participating in sports leagues, often involves social interaction, making a purpose-filled life less prone to Loneliness. A study revealed that individuals who experienced social support, whether received or provided, were likelier to report feelings of purpose. However, fighting Loneliness is not solely dependent on being surrounded by others. Regardless of the number of people involved, having a sense of purpose helps combat Loneliness.

The study highlighted a slight increase in reports of Loneliness among individuals aged 70 and above, emphasizing the significance of purpose during this stage of life. Challenging the notion of retirement and rest, finding meaningful pursuits later in life holds no downsides. Nonetheless, striking a balance is essential, as an overly intense quest for purpose can lead to distress. Even small things can contribute to a meaningful purpose, and the subjective importance of one’s purpose outweighs others’ perceptions.

This study supports the positive association between a sense of purpose, social support, and reduced Loneliness across the adult lifespan. It emphasizes the potential benefits of purposeful living in combating Loneliness. It highlights the role of social connections in fostering a sense of purpose. Understanding these associations can inform interventions to promote purpose-driven lives and enhance well-being. The findings encourage individuals to seek and cultivate meaningful pursuits, regardless of age, to combat Loneliness and improve overall life satisfaction.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hill, Patrick L.,Olaru, Gabriel et al.Do associations between a sense of purpose, social support, and Loneliness differ across the adult lifespan? DOI: Paper