Prolonged loneliness makes us feel too anxious when we meet others again, according to a US study.
Previous research suggests that spending too much time alone is associated with negative effects, such as loneliness and emotional distress. Other studies have linked spending time alone with positive outcomes, such as reduced anger, anxiety, and sadness. But this study uniquely assessed how spending time alone correlates with how people feel in interactions with others on the same day they spent more time alone, and whether this link depends on reasons for which a person has sought solitude.
“We found that people who seek solitude out of fear or aversion to social interactions experience increased anxiety when interacting with others on days when they spend more time alone than usual,” said Hope White, of the department of psychology at the University of Buffalo, New York, and lead author of the study. “We think this is because these individuals don’t use their alone time in ways that are restorative because they spend their alone time brooding .”
The new research, published in a special issue on loneliness of the International Journal of Behavioral Development, provides new insights into the potential risks and benefits of loneliness in emerging adulthood , a critical stage in life’s journey defined, in part, by the new freedom to determine how and with whom to spend one’s time. The study involved a heterogeneous sample of 411 emerging adults between 18 and 26 years of age. Participants filled out daily reports on their smartphones about the amount of time they spent alone and how they felt afterward when social interaction occurred. This new design allowed the researchers to examine changes in time spent alone, so they could determine the impact time alone had on social interactions.
- Solitude and affect during emerging adulthood: When, and for whom, spending time alone is related to positive and negative affect during social interactions (journal.sagepub.com)