Some Scientists Believe Loneliness is Becoming an Epidemic

Loneliness isn't just for the elderly, more adults 18 to 24 report these feelings of isolation, which make people depressed, stand-offish, and untrustworthy. So, how can you cure the lonely?

Some Scientists Believe Loneliness is Becoming an Epidemic

More and more adults report feeling lonely. It's not just the elderly, but younger adults 18 to 24 that are reporting these feelings of isolation. John Cacioppo and Stephanie Cacioppo from New Scientist write that loneliness is becoming a modern epidemic, even when we're more connected than ever, these thoughts of being alone together are breaking us down.


Humans are social creatures--we thrive in groups and decline when we're alone for too long, often becoming depressed. But the Cacioppos explain that loneliness doesn't just mean being physically alone, it can also mean feeling like you're on the social perimeter of a group.

In nature, fish on the edge of the school are more likely to be attacked by predators, so their sense of self-preservation heightens. When placed in isolated situations, social animals switch their behavior to concentrate on short-term survival. But this alteration in thinking comes at the cost of long-term health if this behavior persists without resolve.

People can become socially withdrawn over time, which can make them hostile toward others. Risk of cognitive decline increases in addition to impulsive behavior. This behavior is leftover from our ancestors in the days when tribes and groups meant success or death. But in our modern society, these old psychological triggers stop some of us from thriving in bigger cities and communities where we're more apt to feel alone in a crowd.

The Cacioppos report that therapies to reduce these feelings have had little effect on people's isolated states. However, one intervention study that focused on having participants talk through their feelings of low self-worth and untrustworthy thoughts toward others held the most promise. Whereas classes involving social training with opportunities to meet people were actually the least effective.

"Given the scale of the problem today, the hunt for better treatments of all types deserves high priority."

Loneliness has become a real threat to our health. Some scientists have begun to compare the threats to that of moderate smoking and alcoholism. There are many options to help combat loneliness, in real time or over the internet. 

Read more at New Scientist

Read more at Psych Central

Photo Credit: Geraint Rowland/Flickr

Humanity's most distant space probe captures a strange sound

A new paper reveals that the Voyager 1 spacecraft detected a constant hum coming from outside our Solar System.

Voyager 1 in interstellar space.

Credit: NASA / JPL - Caltech.
Surprising Science
  • Voyager 1, humankind's most distant space probe, detected an unusual "hum" in the data from interstellar space.
  • The noise is likely produced by interstellar gas.
  • Further investigation may reveal the hum's exact origins.
Keep reading Show less

We're winning the war on cancer

As the American population grows, fewer people will die of cancer.

Credit: JEFF PACHOUD via Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study projects that cancer deaths will decrease in relative and absolute terms by 2040.
  • The biggest decrease will be among lung cancer deaths, which are predicted to fall by 50 percent.
  • Cancer is like terrorism: we cannot eliminate it entirely, but we can minimize its influence.
Keep reading Show less

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

Videos

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

Quantcast