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Finding A Sense of Purpose May Help Protect Against Loneliness, New Research Reveals

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Loneliness has been known to lead to various psychiatric disorders, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and personality disorders.

According to Patrick Hill– an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL)– feeling alone can have far-reaching impacts that rival other commonly-known bad habits.

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

That’s why Hill recently co-authored a study centered around exploring feelings of loneliness, which was based on the nationally representative survey results of over 2,300 adults dwelling in Switzerland.

Over a four-week period, each survey respondent was asked to rate their feelings on key points: isolation from other people, a lack of companionship, and the feeling of being “left out.”

Additionally, the study participants were asked to fill out a Life Engagement Test, which prompted them to rate symptoms related to purpose and value in life.

The research revealed that individuals who reported living a purposeful life were less likely to experience feelings of loneliness. This result was consistent regardless of the age of the individual.

“A sense of purpose is this general perception that you have something leading and directing you from one day to the next. It can be something like gardening, supporting your family, or achieving success at work,” Hill explained.

It is important to note that many activities and habits that fulfill a sense of purpose– such as participating in a sports league, volunteering, or joining a club– require social interaction with others. This is one influential factor that helps lead to less loneliness.

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