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Researchers asked older adults about the strategies they use for combatting loneliness. Here's what they said.
"I used to mountain climb… If I can't walk anymore, I'll crawl."
In an ever-more connected world, it would be easy to assume that loneliness was on its way out — after all, we now have unlimited opportunity to communicate with almost anyone we want at any time we please.
But, in fact, it's still rife: according to the Campaign To End Loneliness, over nine million people in the UK describe themselves as "always or often lonely." Age has an impact here, too: an Age UK report suggested that the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness will reach two million by 2025 — a 49% increase from 2016.
And with researchers suggesting that loneliness can be seen as a disease that changes the brain's structure and function, this is a significant public health issue, too. You are more likely to have high blood pressure, depression and even face an early death if you're lonely, so finding strategies with which to combat the experience is vital.
New research in Aging & Mental Health by Alejandra Morlett Paredes from the University of California, San Diego and colleagues may have some tentative answers. The team interviewed 30 adults aged between 65 and 92, all of whom lived in a senior housing community in San Diego. The community is busy: there are nearly 300 residential units, as well as a tennis court, small golf course and allotment plots. Activities like quilting and sewing sessions, card games, and theatre performances are frequently held for residents.
First, residents were asked to complete a quantitative loneliness assessment. The word "lonely" is not used explicitly in the test; rather, participants were asked to rate how frequently they felt in tune with others around them or how often they felt left out, on a scale of one to four.
They were then interviewed by the team about their experiences of loneliness. Four primary areas were explored: whether participants felt lonely, and how they'd describe those feelings; why they think others feel lonely; how they feel ageing plays a role in loneliness; and what strategies they have for combatting feeling isolated.
Ageing, as you might expect, had a big impact on participants' feelings of loneliness. The deaths of partners and loved ones was particularly difficult, while participants also commented on how loss of mobility restricted their social activities. Social skills were also identified as a risk factor: one participant noted that those without strong social skills may be more likely to suffer.
Emotionally, loneliness was (unsurprisingly) connected to feelings of emptiness, sadness and lack of meaning. One participant described herself as feeling "lost… and not having control, and sometimes it can lead you to not be able to make decisions and then it just gets worse", whilst another described loneliness as "the feeling of nothing".
But many participants also commented on strategies they used to protect against loneliness. Though ageing was a risk factor, acceptance of ageing had more positive outcomes. As one participant put it: "I used to mountain climb… If I can't walk anymore, I'll crawl. You have to learn how to be realistic and not brood about it. I know I'm getting older, but I consider life a transition." Compassion was also useful: being proactive about helping others, for example, helped some participants prevent being lonely.
Spirituality also emerged as a potentially protective trait: for some older people, faith helped them get through the losses of loved ones, and attending religious ceremonies within the community also provided them with strong social connections.
Perhaps most useful on a practical level were participants' thoughts on environments that facilitate social interaction. Numerous residents mentioned the activities and opportunities for socialising offered by their community — perhaps a good insight into the kind of social structures that need to be developed and embedded within communities to help older people connect with others.
Participants were largely middle or upper-middle class, and the vast majority were white, which means these findings may not bear out across different socioeconomic groups. Those experiencing poverty or racism, or who don't live in similar assisted living communities, are unlikely to have the same experiences
But working on both structural changes and learning about protective psychological factors may be a crucial weapon in the fight against loneliness.
- There's a loneliness epidemic in the US and it's getting worse ›
- Why Do We Feel Lonely? - Big Think ›
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A 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison study was the first of it's kind to show structural differences in the psychopathic brain.
- According to a 2017 study led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, psychopaths have reduced connections in the areas of the brain that control fear, anxiety, empathy and sentimentality.
- Psychopathy is typically diagnosed using a 20-item checklist called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
- Psychopathic tendencies could be considered "warning signs" of psychopathy, but it's important to note that not everyone who shows psychopathic tendencies becomes a psychopath.
Defining psychopathy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMDkwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTk2MTAyOH0.yVAVp2AYmR0i5hPAhhY-R1jafU2y0shl5R35K2rOnCg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C92%2C0%2C92&height=700" id="531fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d45c27dc8187d30f709739ca98c9913f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of psychopathy split personality manipulation and deceit man showing half his true face" />
Psychopathy is typically diagnosed using a 20-item checklist called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
Photo by FGC on Shutterstock<p>Psychopathy, like many other conditions, is a spectrum. Common traits of psychopaths can include things like superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, manipulation, lack of remorse or guilt, lack of empathy, behavioral problems in early life, impulsivity, and shallow affect (reduced emotional responses) to name a few.<br></p><p>Psychopathy is typically diagnosed using a 20-item checklist called the <a href="http://www.clintools.com/victims/resources/assessment/personality/psychopathy_checklist.html" target="_blank">Hare Psychopathy Checklist</a>. This list features questions that gauge common traits such as a lack of empathy, pathological lying, and impulsivity (among many others). </p><p>Each question on this scale is then scored on a three-point scale: The item doesn't apply (0), the item applies to a certain extend (1), or the question fully applies (2). The bar for "clinical psychopathy" is 30 points on this test. </p><p>For reference, here are some of the scores of notable evaluations: </p><p>Ted Bundy - 39/40<br>Richard Ramirez - 31/40<br>Brian David Mitchell - 34/40</p><p><strong>Differentiating psychopathy and sociopathy </strong></p><p>The terms "psychopath" and "sociopath" are often used interchangeably but they aren't the same - and the <a href="https://psychcentral.com/blog/differences-between-a-psychopath-vs-sociopath/#:~:text=Psychopaths%20tend%20to%20be%20more,much%20of%20a%20normal%20life." target="_blank">difference is quite important</a>. A sociopath is someone with antisocial tendencies that are specific to social or environmental factors. A psychopath is someone whose traits are more innate.</p><p>A psychopath will be more manipulative but can be seen by others to lead a charming, "normal" life - whereas sociopaths tend to be more erratic, rage-prone, and are unable to keep up the facade of normality. </p>
Psychopathic tendencies versus psychopathy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMDkwNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjYzMTQ5OX0.IkfptXc5e1auSwTo_Bqpasjwbh4i1nLS8r8Xmm2EJEI/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b403" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0581a77d5f1e4b73e07c019aeda5971d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of trying on many faces hiding your true personality psychopath" />
A psychopath may be able to create a seemingly typical personality and life to fool others. Psychopathic tendencies don't always extend into psychopathy.
Photo by FGC on Shutterstock<p><strong>What causes psychopathy?</strong></p><p>Brain anatomy, genetics, and the person's environment may all contribute to the development of psychopathic traits. However, it's important to note that not all psychopathic traits and tendencies mean the person will grow into a psychopath.</p><p><strong>What are psychopathic tendencies? </strong></p><p>Psychopathic tendencies could be considered warning signs of psychopathy, but it's important to note that not everyone who shows psychopathic tendencies becomes a psychopath. Some, with the intervention of various therapies and strong, nurturing relationships, can assimilate to a relatively normal way of life. </p><p>The most well-known case of this would be the case of Beth Thomas. The subject of a 1990 documentary entitled "Child of Rage," Beth began to show psychopathic tendencies extremely early in life after suffering physical neglect and sexual abuse at the hands of her birth father before the age of one. </p><p>Later moved into an adoptive family where she could get the help she needs, the documentary (<a href="https://www.bitchute.com/video/pr3tmwyZAn0f/" target="_blank">which you can view here</a>, be warned, this footage may be disturbing to some) showed the disturbing thought process of a young 6-year-old girl struggling with an attachment disorder that led to psychopathic tendencies. </p><p>However, Beth, with the help of her adoptive family and professionals, became a <a href="https://www.bitchute.com/video/pr3tmwyZAn0f/" target="_blank">relatively typical young woman</a> who works as a nurse and has co-authored a book called "More Than a Thread of Hope" with her adoptive mother.</p><p><strong>Psychopaths' brains show differences in structure and function</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.med.wisc.edu/news-and-events/2011/november/psychopaths-brains-differences-structure-function/" target="_blank">According to a 2017 study</a> led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, psychopaths have reduced connections in their brains between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the amygdala. </p><p>This is noteworthy because of the functions of both parts in play - the vmPFC is responsible for sentimentality, empathy and guilt and the amygdala mediates fear and anxiety. </p><p>Not only did the research here show there were differences in how these parts of the psychopathic brain functioned, but this was the first study of it's kind to show physical (structural) differences in the brains of psychopaths. </p><p><strong>How common is psychopathy? </strong></p><p>While there may never be a specific answer to this, there have been several studies that can give us insight into how common psychopathy is. <a href="https://www.livescience.com/16585-psychopaths-speech-language.html#:~:text=Psychopaths%20make%20up%20about%201,profoundly%20selfish%20and%20lack%20emotion." target="_blank">According to most research</a>, psychopaths make up about 1 percent of the general population. <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201602/5-traits-actual-psychopaths#:~:text=While%20about%20one%20percent%20of,the%20criteria%20for%20being%20psychopaths.)" target="_blank">Additional research</a> claims up to 15 percent of the U.S prison population may meet the criteria for being psychopaths. </p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
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