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Researchers are digging into loneliness, an issue that some public-health officials say has become an epidemic in the U.S.
In a paper published last month in the journal International Psychogeriatrics, Dr. Dilip Jeste and his team at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine pointed out that reported rates of loneliness have doubled over the past 50 years — and that this has serious implications.
“A prevailing pall of loneliness in the United States,” the researchers write, “poses a greater, more intractable public-health crisis than tobacco use or obesity.”
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Their study, Jeste said in a UC-San Diego statement, surveyed 340 men and women from the San Diego area who “were not considered to be at high risk for moderate to severe loneliness. … These participants were, generally speaking, regular people.”
Jeste is a distinguished professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at UC-San Diego’s medical school.
He and his fellow researchers used a variety of well-established tools to determine levels of loneliness, such as the UCLA Loneliness Scale and a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services measurement that zeroes in on social isolation.
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They found that mild loneliness is “common” for people throughout their lives and that loneliness in general is “associated with everything bad” (such as substance abuse, hypertension and poor sleep).
The “silver lining,” according to the paper, is that the study also found “a strong inverse association between wisdom and loneliness. People who were deemed wiser were less lonely.” Offered Ellen Lee, a mental-health research fellow at UC-San Diego and one of the paper’s authors:
“That may be due to the fact that behaviors which define wisdom, such as empathy, compassion, emotional regulation [and] self-reflection effectively counter or prevent serious loneliness.”
Enter the San Diego Wisdom Scale, a questionnaire first published in 2017 that was developed by Jeste and used in the new study.
Wisdom, according to the science behind the San Diego Wisdom Scale, is about being practical, self-aware, inclusive and relatively even-keeled emotionally.
“There is evidence to suggest that [one’s] level of wisdom is dictated to a large degree by neurobiology, and that distinct regions and systems in the brain govern the identified components of wisdom,” Jeste has stated.
Jeste, according to Britain’s The Independent, says determining wisdom in some ways can be “boil[ed] down to a series of six questions, which the psychiatry professor believes is all you need to measure just how wise someone really is.” What are those six questions?
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