The News Story – Extreme loneliness worse than obesity

A new study reveals that as damaging as obesity is to health, “chronic loneliness” rivals it. The study, reports the Toronto Sun, finds that “loneliness increases the chances of premature death by 14%, which is as much of an increase as that caused by being overweight and nearly as bad as poverty in terms of undermining an individual’s long-term level of health.”
 
This news comes at a time when, according to the story, increasing life expectancy has left an ever-greater number of the elderly alone. One expert even advises that retiring to Florida, far away from loves ones, might not be the best route for senior citizens.
 
What the story fails to mention is the impact that increasing rates of divorce have had on loneliness. In addition to living longer, seniors are also divorcing more. Divorce effects all of those involved, however, and research shows that even the children of divorced parents suffer from increased levels of loneliness.

The New Research – Alone and unsatisfied

Compared to adolescents from intact families, adolescents whose parents have divorced lead lives darkened by relative loneliness and dissatisfaction. Two psychological ills that grow in the shadow of parental divorce stand out clearly in a study conducted by Turkish researchers from Pamukkale University.

Analyzing data collected from 863 high-school students, the authors document a clear statistical linkage between parental divorce, on the one hand, and loneliness (p<.01) and diminished life satisfaction (p<.001). These linkages persist in statistical models that account for gender, age at the time of the parental divorce, and contact frequency with the non-residential parent. The conclusion is therefore obvious: “High-school adolescents with divorced parents may be at risk with regard to loneliness and [diminished] life satisfaction.”
 
Though the researchers examined adolescent loneliness and life satisfaction separately, they were not surprised that an event that fosters loneliness (namely, parental divorce) also depresses life satisfaction. “Loneliness,” they note, “is an important predictor of life satisfaction.”
 
Champions of liberal divorce laws have promulgated the myth of the resilient child (“Children are tough; after a short period of adjustment, those who have experienced parental divorce will be just fine”). However, the authors of this study stress that “the participants of this study . . . are experiencing the long-term effects of divorce.”
 
(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson, “New Research,” The Family in America, Summer 2010, Vol. 24 Number 3. Study: Nazmiye Çıvıtcı, Asim Çıvıtcı, and N. Ceren Fıyakali, “Loneliness and Life Satisfaction in Adolescents with Divorced and Non-Divorced Parents,” Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice 9.2 [Spring 2009]: 513–25, emphasis added.)

This article has been republished with permission from The Family in America, a publication of The Howard Center. The Howard Center is a MercatorNet partner site.

Nicole M. King is the Managing Editor of The Howard Center’s quarterly journal, The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy, the United States’ leading journal of family-policy research....