What celebrities seem chronically lonely


Eating alone is unhealthy for a philosophizing scholar.
Immanuel Kant

Learning solitude is a force, not a goal.
Elisabeth Badinter

Loneliness is the way in which fate wants to lead people to themselves.
Hermann Hesse

lonliness refers to the negative feeling of being separated from other people, although this subjective feeling does not necessarily have to be related to physical loneliness and actual social isolation. Loneliness can make you depressed and also physically ill, although there are phases in life in which people feel particularly lonely. At the 2013 Congress for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, experts presented current figures on loneliness among men and women in old age and discussed the consequences and risk factors of loneliness. According to studies, half of all women and every fifth man of the over 65-year-olds live alone, with men and women equally affected by loneliness.

According to some researchers, loneliness is one Trend diagnosis, because many people like to be alone, and it is difficult to determine when isolation is something that makes people sick. Loneliness is by definition certainly not a disease, because if it were a physical ailment, one or more organ systems would have to be demonstrably affected, which is not the case. There would also be clear diagnostic criteria that could be used to separate the behavior and feelings of the healthy and the sick. Depression, for example, is not a disease, but just one of the many symptoms of depression. Loneliness is ultimately only a subjective feeling and can be viewed as a possible symptom of a mental illness. It is well known that some people consciously seek solitude and withdraw from the world in order to find inner peace. Loneliness can sharpen their senses and give them the opportunity to focus on something new again. Of course, loneliness is also something that some people suffer from, especially when they are chronically lonely, i. That is, if their social network collapses or an illness robs them of the possibility of continuing or even establishing relationships with others.

In the UK in 2018 the UK government has a Ministry of the Fight Against Loneliness set up, with one Loneliness strategy The current (2019) incumbent, Baroness Diana Barran, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Civil Society and Loneliness, presented a new 2.5 million euro fund , which aims to financially help organizations bring people together and create social connections. The Ministry of Loneliness supports projects that address being alone in very different ways, for example by subsidizing hiking groups and community choirs or by receiving grants from district centers and advice centers. One initiative is called "Rural Coffee Caravan“Where a trailer café in Sussex villages offers outpatient coffee get-togethers. Doctors are allowed to participate in the "Social prescribing“Society to prescribe a prescription, this social medication bringing those affected together with helpers who assist with social problems or organize activities.

Loneliness is also a feeling that the evolution given to people as a control instrument, because loneliness reminds them that they are and must be social beings. Without constant contact with the horde, the chances of survival sank tremendously, but loneliness can remove a person further and further from other people instead of leading him back into the community. Short term So loneliness makes sense in evolutionary terms, because it makes people more aware of their own needs and motivates them to maintain social contacts. Someone who lives alone does not necessarily have to be lonely, because many singles love their freedom, although you can also feel chronically lonely with many people around you if there is no real mutual address. In a study by Cacioppo et al. (2017) showed that after a year of loneliness, people feel more Selfishness show, whereby this self-centeredness also turned out to be an indicator of loneliness. Cacioppo et al. (2017) followed residents of Cook County, Illinois, for over ten years, with subjects having to fill out extensive questionnaires annually. They found that loneliness in one year correlated with particular self-centeredness in the following year, whereas in the opposite case self-centeredness again favored loneliness in the following year. People who are alone for too long or even lonely therefore focus very strongly on themselves, which can lead to feeling even more lonely, whereby the change to self-centeredness can also lead to their fellow human beings distancing themselves. The company of other people may be exhausting for many, but without a social environment some people mutate into loners in that loneliness and self-centeredness rock each other up.

Spreng et al. (2020), using the UK Biobank Population Imaging-Genetics cohort (about forty thousand people aged 40-69 years with an average age of about fifty-five years), examined the morphology of the gray matter, the intrinsic functional coupling, and the microstructure of the fibrous webs Signatures of loneliness checked. The neurobiological profiles associated with loneliness converge in a collection of brain regions known as Standard network (default network), this higher associative network showing more consistent loneliness associations in gray matter volume than other cortical brain networks. In the lonely, the network that is needed for memories and hypothetical scenarios was particularly strong, namely in the hippocampus, where memories are called up, and in the nerve fibers of the fornix (the fornix cerebri is a C-shaped projection path of the brain that forms the hippocampus with the Corpora mammilaria), which transmit this information. This means that people who feel lonely are more likely to direct their thoughts inward, using their imagination to reminisce about the past or develop thoughts about the future. In the absence of desirable social experiences, lonely individuals may be thrown back on inward mindsets such as remembering or imagining social experiences.

Courtney & Meyer (2020) have the Brain activity when thinking about other people and were able to show that the human brain reflects the intensity of the bond with other people. They analyzed the neural activity of 43 men and women using the functional Magnetic resonance imagingwhile pondering the characteristics of themselves, close friends, or celebrities. The pattern of brain activity differed depending on the caregiver, because thinking about oneself activated different circuits than when the test subjects pondered close friends or people only known from the media. These patterns were all the more similar, the closer they felt they were connected to the respective person, so that the subjective relationship to these persons was decisive for the neural representation, whereby in all cases the medial prefrontal cortex was active, i.e. the area in the frontal lobe that is responsible, among other things, for self-image. When the brain activity of lonely subjects was compared with that of socially well-integrated subjects, there were striking differences. That is, their activation pattern was more decoupled from other areas than in non-lonely participants. The neural patterns for the self and for close friends also differed more strongly, with most of them activating a very similar cortical constellation when thinking about themselves or friends. In people suffering from loneliness, the representation of the self in the brain was more decoupled from the representation of other people. These results suggest that the feeling of chronic social isolation is reflected by an isolated self-representation in the brain, but it remains unclear whether these neural differences are cause or effect. The social brain seems to map interpersonal relationships, with changes in this map explaining whether people are in a social network or not.

In a study, Susanne Foitzik from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz found that too Ants react to social isolation in a similar way to humans and other social mammals. As a result of social isolation, ants show changed social and hygienic behavior, with the immune and stress genes also being downregulated in the brain of the isolated ants, meaning that the immune system is less effective, similar to that of humans.

The neurologist Magnus Heier on the brain: You have to think of your brain as an incredibly lonely organ. A world is created in your brain in which I can hear and see each other. And if you're unlucky, you'll smell me too. So you have a precise idea of ​​your surroundings. Of course, that's all nonsense. Your brain lies in a dark cave with no external contact. The brain does not hear, see, smell, or feel. You can stroke it or even operate it, it won't even notice. It only receives electrical signals from outside. From the eye, from the ear, from the tongue. And from these electrical signals it constructs a world in or with which it can live. Whether this has anything to do with the objective world out there is very doubtful. There are no colors out there. What they perceive as “blue” and beautiful is not a color, it is a wavelength of light. Basically, you have a delusional idea of ​​how you look. (...) I also take away the illusion that you are processing things factually, soberly, objectively, comprehensibly. You don't do any of that. They are shaped by impressions, emotions and irrationalities. Your choice of partner, cell phone or car, for example, is on completely different ground than you think. We can even prove that the more your awareness is distracted, the smarter your decisions become. The better and more actively your subconscious can work before decisions, the better these will be.

There is no clear definition or diagnosis for loneliness and therefore no statistical value from which someone is lonely, but one measures the phenomenon of loneliness by asking people either directly or indirectly about social ties. From the answers you can then estimate the proportion of those who feel lonely sometimes, often or always. It is certain that loneliness can lead to serious psychological and physical health problems, because chronically lonely people are more likely to become depressed, more likely to develop diseases of the cardiovascular system and even die earlier than non-lonely people.

According to Luhmann, however, there are also very specific ones middle stages of life (around 30) a feeling of loneliness, with those around 30 being much more lonely on average than those who were a little younger or a little older. However, there are no clear factors such as health restrictions, social contacts, number of friends, income or education that can explain this phenomenon. Around the age of 30, many people experience significant upheavals in their social relationships; when children are born, for example, this often leads to a certain degree of alienation from friends who lead a different life, who continue to live going out late in the evening while you take care of the children yourself at home. This is confirmed by a survey in Great Britain, in which parents often lonely feel, because more than half of the mothers and fathers surveyed said that they have been rather isolated since the birth of their child. They feel cut off from friends, family and the rest of the world, which cannot be explained solely by the amount of care required, but also by the fact that money is often scarce with children and they do not get out of the house as often.

Luhmann & Hawkley (2016) estimate that ten to twenty percent of people are at least sometimes affected by feelings of loneliness. It would therefore be necessary to improve the framework conditions in order to make it easier for those affected to participate in daily social life, i. That is, targeted support for initiatives that target lonely people can be helpful. In addition, an expansion of psychotherapeutic care is necessary, because people who have been chronically lonely for a long time often no longer come out without professional support.

Loneliness is in the later stages of life relatively well investigated by adults, also because growing old often coincides with changes in the social environment, for example living alone, when a partner is not or no longer available, when employment is no longer pursued and potential social contacts are thus eliminated. But physical impairments can also lead to people being less socially active, i.e. not being able to leave the house as often, even if they might want to. Health restrictions, decreasing mobility, loss of partner are therefore risk factors that favor isolation and which occur more frequently in old age.

Psychologists usually differentiate two forms of loneliness: The emotional lonelinesswhen a confidant is missing, a partner with whom one feels connected and who social lonelinessif the affected person basically lacks social relationships, support from friends, neighbors or colleagues. Incidentally, widowed people are more likely to experience emotional loneliness than married couples, but social loneliness is less common. Loneliness also fulfills an important function because, like hunger, it is a signal that one is losing contact with others. In evolution it was important for every individual to survive to maintain a connection to the group, because isolation could be fatal. Only in a group could you assert yourself and pass on your own genes.

According to research, loneliness is first and foremost one Phenomenon of old age, because many people over the age of eighty describe themselves as particularly lonely. This loneliness of old age is largely determined by the lack of a partner, less frequent social contacts, lower income and health restrictions. But there are also phases of life in young and middle adulthood when loneliness was very pronounced, for example in the early thirties and in the fifties. According to German studies, there is an enormous increase, especially from the age of 75 or 80, which corresponds completely to the cliché that many have of old people. You then think of the old woman who sits at the window all day and looks at the street and otherwise has no contacts. This picture seems to apply to a certain extent, it is actually the case that very old people, i.e. from around 75 or 80 years of age, are among those who are the most lonely.

Holt-Lunstad et al. (2015) have in a Meta-study examines how much social isolation poses a risk to people's health. For this purpose, the results of studies were summarized which examined the influence of social isolation, loneliness and living alone on mortality. It showed that if you feel permanently lonely, the risk of death increases by 26 percent, if you are socially isolated, it increases to 29 percent, and in humans the risk is 32 percent. The brain apparently perceives the psychological pain of loneliness as well as physical pain, so loneliness can be a warning signal such as hunger or thirst. People in isolation should think carefully about what is missing and what is not, because if there is no social contact, it is a good strategy to reach other people via social media, telephone or even old-fashioned letters. For example, if you cannot leave your apartment, for example due to quarantine, it is a good option to devote yourself to a hobby for which there has been little time so far. Anyone who spends a lot of time alone can quickly get into Brooding, among other things, this can lead to threatening fears. Especially people with a high degree of it Neuroticism are often worried, fearful and can be easily put under pressure. The danger is that someone gives in to their fears and worries instead of actively solving their problems.

Tomova et al. (2020) investigated the consequences when people are forced to isolate themselves from one another. In an experiment with functional magnetic resonance imaging, the neural responses after ten hours of fasting or complete social isolation measured on food and social signals. After the period of deprivation, they were shown photos of their favorite food, of communal activities and neutral pictures as control conditions. After isolation, people felt lonely and longed for social interaction, with the midbrain areas showing increased activation to food and social signals after fasting and after isolation. These reactions correlated with the self-reported desire. Neural patterns in response to food cues when participants were hungry apparently generalized to social cues after isolation. Apparently, social isolation causes social desires similar to hunger, so social contact is probably a basic human need such as food. By the way, the test subjects felt lonely, even though they knew that the isolation would be limited in time. One can also assume that social isolation should be compensated for by other types of rewards, i.e. increased food intake.

Risk factors According to the latest studies, loneliness is generally characterized by a low income, health restrictions and a low frequency of social contacts. However, most studies do not show whether living alone is really the cause of secondary diseases, because there is only a statistical correlation with those who actually feel lonely, and this is of course not the case with everyone who lives alone. Therefore, from a psychological point of view, a distinction must be made between loneliness and being alone.

See also that Empty nest syndrome.


By the way, the topic of loneliness leads to headlines in the media like "Loneliness is killer number one ”, where the loneliness specialist Manfred Spitzer lets himself be carried away to the following statements: “Loneliness activates the pain center in the brain (...) The condition could then lead to diabetes and cancer, among other things (...) Loneliness is (...) more harmful to health than smoking, obesity or alcohol consumption . (...) The increased level of stress hormones in the blood of the lonely leads to diabetes, cancer and infectious diseases more often. (...) Excessive use of computers, TV and smartphones for up to eight hours a day in young people promotes (...) loneliness. Social learning and language development would be impaired as a result. On the other hand, volunteer work and visits to the forest had a positive effect on personal happiness. "
Finally, there is also the recommendation that young people should learn an instrument or a sport so that they can later play in an orchestra or a football team.


Cacioppo, John T., Chen, Hsi Yuan & Cacioppo, Stephanie (2017). Reciprocal Influences Between Loneliness and Self-Centeredness: A Cross-Lagged Panel Analysis in a Population-Based Sample of African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian Adults. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43, 1125-1135.
Courtney, Andrea L. & Meyer, Meghan L. (2020). Self-other representation in the social brain reflects social connection. The Journal of Neuroscience, doi: 10.1523 / JNEUROSCI.2826-19.2020.
Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine: A Publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 40, doi: 10.1007 / s12160-010-9210-8.
Holt-Lunstad, Julianne, Smith, Timothy B. & Layton, J. Bradley (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine, 7, doi: 10.1371 / journal.pmed.1000316.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T. & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic. Psychological Science, 10, 227-237.
Luhmann, M. & Hawkley, L. C. (2016). Age differences in loneliness from late adolescence to oldest old age. Developmental Psychology, 52, 943-959.
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Steptoe, A., Shankar, A., Demakakos, P. & Wardle, J. (2013). Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1219686110.
Tomova, Livia, Wang, Kimberly, Thompson, Todd, Matthews, Gillian, Takahashi, Atsushi, Tye, Kay & Saxe, Rebecca (2020). The need to connect: Acute social isolation causes neural craving responses similar to hunger. Nature Neuroscience, doi: 10.1101 / 2020.03.25.006643.
http://arbeitsblaetter-news.stangl-taller.at/risikofaktor-einsamkeit/ (15-11-21)
https://www.stuttgarter-zeitung.de/inhalt.psychologie-einsamkeit-ist-killer-nummer-eins.9a7afcbd-a861-4abc-86e4-7eefe1e4cacb.html (19-04-06)
https://www.ikz-online.de/staedte/iserlohn/das-gehirn-ist-ein-unfassbar-einsames-organ-id228689147.html (20-03-14)

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