Alone in the World

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Participants were also asked about their use of technology and lifestyle. More than 55, people from all over the world took part, making it the largest-ever survey of its kind.

Does city life make us more or less lonely? Share your stories

Friends may have died, they may have lost life partners, and their family — if they have one — may live some distance away. And in a US survey by health insurers Cigna, generation Z reported the highest rates of loneliness compared to other age groups. It could be that young people are simply more open to talking about how they feel, the BBC survey suggests. Or it could be that young adults experience a lot of upheaval; perhaps leaving home for the first time or starting a new job.

That finding suggests that living alone isn't as much of a problem as spending lots of time alone.

Reading this alone? Recent surveys reveal the curious truth about loneliness

The survey included an experiment which asked people to guess what emotion someone was feeling just by looking at a picture of their face or their eyes. However, the BBC study found that there is no real time of year when people feel loneliest. It can be the jolt we need to make changes, such as joining a club or taking up a sport.

In many cases, loneliness is only a temporary state. Loneliness is not the same as being alone. We can be surrounded by friends and family but still feel lonely. Participants said that loneliness was the feeling of having no one to talk to, and of having no one who really understands you. Of those, almost half said that they were simply too busy to connect with others, even though they would like to. They were referring not just to meeting new people, but to seeing family and friends as well. Participants in the YouGov survey said that even small connections made a difference.

The BBC survey asked respondents to suggest ways to alleviate loneliness.

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Popular ideas included finding a new hobby or sport, confiding in someone that they were lonely, and initiating meetings with people. The piece of advice they said they found least helpful was to go on a date. Tackling the problem Governments are taking the issue of loneliness very seriously. In January, Britain appointed a minister to help combat loneliness. In Japan, the government is having to rethink its welfare system and social services programme following a spate of elderly people deliberately getting themselves arrested out of loneliness.

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  4. Its respondents were self-selecting, which means that people feeling lonely may have been more inclined to take part. However, the lead author, Professor Pamela Qualter from the University Of Manchester said that nevertheless it offered key points for discussion.

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    It's not just a holiday thing.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum. I accept. Global Agenda Mental Health Reading this alone? Recent surveys reveal the curious truth about loneliness Why do we get lonely and who's most at risk? Predictions for What if we get things right? I watched a David Attenborough documentary the other day and there was a polar bear on the ice, searching for a mate.

    Motivational Video • Alone

    The aerial camera zoomed out and there were miles of ice in every direction. Becoming a mother and going on maternity leave is a dramatic transition — your appearance changes, people view you differently and you almost stop seeing yourself as an independent person.

    Most people only ever ask you about your baby.

    Feeling alone in the world? Here are 6 TED Talks to watch |

    What am I doing? A generation ago, east London had very established communities, which helped when you were raising a family. Marion: Lynne and I have known each other for a couple of years now and it makes a big difference to have people around you. I used to visit a lady in Maida Vale. Of course being a lonely person is difficult, but it can also be a huge strain on the relatives who feel solely responsible for that person.

    The way I see it, there are different kinds of loneliness. I can go outdoors, listen to music, talk to strangers. I speak Arabic, Turkish and French, just from talking to people.

    Feeling alone in the world? Here are 6 TED Talks to watch

    When I was young, I did struggle with loneliness more, when my elders left me — the adults around me and my older brothers — and I was alone. But I learned to find myself. Is that love? Are they your friends? Or do they just exist on the phone?

    It should be the same with friendship. At my time of life, it gets harder to socialise and feel part of things. The other hard thing about growing older is losing people. When my best friend died it was an awful time. A great antidote to loneliness in my life has been sport.