I love to see the research!
This was Cacioppo’s question in the early 2000s. In one of many studies, he took 135 lonely people, divided them into groups A and B, and asked them to complete an in-depth personality test.
Group A was then hypnotised to remember periods of their life when they were lonely, and Group B to remember periods of their life when they were connected to a person or groups.
They were then asked to repeat the personality test.
The group that had 𝐟𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐛𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐌𝐎𝐑𝐄 𝐝𝐞𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐝 and the group that had focused on connection became substantially LESS depressed.
What does it mean? It means that 𝐋𝐎𝐍𝐄𝐋𝐈𝐍𝐄𝐒𝐒 𝐂𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐓𝐄𝐒 𝐃𝐄𝐏𝐑𝐄𝐒𝐒𝐈𝐎𝐍. Depression does not create loneliness.
This makes sense when you think about our history and biology. As animals, we don’t have poisonous fangs, hard shells, or claws to protect us. We are a bit like juicy lumps of meat walking around trying to survive. We survived by being in community. We hunted and lived in tribes. We are wired to survive, to be CONNECTED to other humans.
This is why it is so important when you have experienced a trauma, and there is a desire to isolate, to stay CONNECTED to other people and groups. Connection helps prevent depression.
Reference: John Cacioppo – Cacioppo et al. (2006). Loneliness within a nomological net: An evolutionary perspective. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 1054-1085. Cited in Hari, J. (2018). Lost Connections. London, UK: Bloomsbury.