MAY 22, 2024 10:25 AM PDT

Loneliness in Adolescence Predicts Mental Health Issues in Adulthood

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Loneliness during adolescence is linked to an increased risk of mental health conditions such as psychosis, bipolar disorder, and depression in adulthood. The corresponding study was published in BJPsych Open

Loneliness is a negative experience characterized by feelings of deficiency in one’s social relationships, whether in quality or quantity. It is related to several adverse health outcomes, including impaired cognitive function, compromised immune functioning, and heightened inflammation, as well as mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. 

Although much research exists on the link between loneliness and adult mental health, little research has examined how loneliness in adolescence relates to mental health in adulthood. In the current study, researchers investigated whether loneliness in adolescence is linked to prescriptions for psychotropic drugs in adulthood. 

To do so, they analyzed data from a Norwegian population-based sample of 2, 602 participants. Loneliness was assessed at four time points between 1992 and 2006 and compared to records for prescription drugs, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers, between 2007 and 2015. 

Ultimately, the researchers found that adolescents with high degrees of loneliness and adolescents whose loneliness increased into young adulthood were more likely to be prescribed antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants in adulthood. The results remained after being adjusted for factors including substance use and sociodemographic characteristics. 

“Our research indicates that loneliness increases the risk of developing psychosis, bipolar disorders and severe depression,” said study author Ruben Rodríguez-Cano, Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in a press release

“Researchers, politicians and various social actors, both at preventive and clinical levels, should monitor loneliness during adolescence. We need to create opportunities for young people to feel less alone, thus preventing mental health problems,” concluded Prof Rodríguez-Cano. 


Sources: Neuroscience NewsBJPsych Open

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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