What Is Loneliness Doing to Your Brain?

Today we’re talking about loneliness;
not to be confused with introversion, or social anxiety, while those subjects are worthy topics. Loneliness actually has been defined in many ways: “a state of solitude or being alone,”
“inability to find meaning in one’s life….” Okay, this is already a downer, so look at
a picture of a panda. Aw, it’s cute! Now I want a panda. I’m gonna overnight one to my crib. I’m gonna do that. Of course, we’re not the only generation
to experience loneliness, even though listening to The Weeknd
really does make it feel like that. Health insurance provider Cigna recently published a study citing that 18-22 year olds have the highest “loneliness score,”
followed by millennials, then Generation X… so yeah,
young people, we just killin’ it right now. Generation Z cited that they feel people are
around them but they aren’t really with them, feel shy, and they feel like people
don’t know them very well. The old man in me really wants to say, “these
kids right now are out here spending too much time on the Twitters and the Fortnites!”,
but that’s not exactly what Cigna found. Cigna cited lack of an IRL social life
as part of the problem, saying that “levels of in-person interactions, physical and mental wellness,
and life balance” are better predictors of loneliness
than social media alone. So, if your IG game is on point but you like to hang
out with your friends, you should be good… but if social media IS hanging out with your
friends, go outside! Humans are social mammals and need social interaction to survive; that’s
part of why solitary confinement in prisons is so torturous. Why do that to ourselves
on the outside? “Y’all best go out to the quarry for some stickball and a swim!” You know, I’m not doing this voice again. One study breaks down three types of loneliness. Situational loneliness is when unpleasant events
or circumstances cause us to retract from society. Developmental loneliness can hinder
our capacity to balance individualism and intimacy. (Psychological disorders like depression or schizophrenia could cause developmental loneliness). And finally, internal loneliness, when a self-perception of worthlessness intensifies
the feeling of being alone. This got dark again, bring in another panda pic. Lifestyle influences our neurophysiology, so lonely people perceive the world very differently. For instance, people suffering from loneliness tend to see benign events as more threatening,
living in self-defense mode… even in their sleep. Some research suggests that lonelier
people have more restless sleep patterns, which could impact cognitive development. Research suggests that there are
neural correlates for loneliness. A 2009 study revealed that lonelier people
showed less activation in brain centers associated with reward when viewing pictures of people in pleasant situations, and less activation in parts of the brain linked to empathy when viewing images of people
in unpleasant situations. Other researchers also discovered that neurons in the dorsal raphe nuclei are sensitive to social isolation. Those neurons in question, taken together
with the ones from the ventral striatum, deal with the reward neurotransmitter dopamine. So, it’s possible that low social interactions=less dopamine=less feeling good. Of course,
the latter study was run with mice, so more research is always needed. On top of that, a meta-analysis from 1980 to 2015
found that loneliness and its accompanying
depression was as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is a risk factor for mortality.
This is so dark; bring in the pandas! Please, don’t leave, don’t leave! I’m
not gonna leave you on a downer. Loneliness is a social epidemic, yes,
but there are remedies. Don’t replace friendships and happiness with likes and text messages.
Go out and meet people! Humans need social interaction in real life –
it’s developmentally necessary. Easier said than done, but remember, you’re
not alone in feeling alone. And if you’ll excuse me, I have a panda
waiting for me at home. I did order one, and I can’t wait to play with it. Yo, thanks so much for watching. If you’re
like, “ooh, I need a little bit more loneliness content!” watch this video about what solitary
confinement does to your brain. And if you’re like, “that’s a little bit too dark for me,”
watch this video about pandas watching… watching porn? Watch this video about pandas
watching porn. Thanks for watching my video, and also, subscribe to Seeker for more videos! Pandas watching porn?
I’m definitely gonna hafta watch that. I gotta find out what’s going
on with pandas.