Being Alone During Pandemic Actually Benefited Many People: New Research

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Time spent alone during the pandemic led to positive effects on well-being across all ages, new research has found.

The study of more than 2,000 teenagers and adults, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that most people experienced benefits from solitude during the early days of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

About 43 per cent said that solitude involved activities and experiences of competence — time spent on skills-building and activities. Autonomy-self-connection and reliance on self was a major feature particularly for adults.

“Our paper shows that aspects of solitude, a positive way of describing being alone, is recognized across all ages as providing benefits for our well-being,” said lead author Dr Netta Weinstein, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Reading.

“It also suggests that certain experiences of solitude are learned or valued increasingly with age, having an effect to reduce the impact of negative elements of loneliness and generally boosting well-being. Equally, it suggests that casual inferences about loneliness based on age and stage miss the reality of our nuanced lived experiences,” Weinstein added.

However, the study also showed that working age adults recorded the most negative experiences with more participants mentioning disrupted well-being (35.6 per cent vs 29.4 per cent in adolescents and 23.7 per cent in older adults) and negative mood (44 per cent vs 27.8 per cent in adolescents and 24.5 per cent in older adults).

Experiences of alienation, or the cost of not interacting with friends, were twice as frequent among adolescents (14.8 per cent) as when compared to adults (7 per cent) with older adults mentioning it most infrequently (2.3 per cent).

“Seeing working age adults experience disrupted well-being and negative mood may in fact be related to the pandemic reducing our ability to find peaceful solitude. As we all adjusted to a ‘new normal’, many working adults found that usual moments of being alone, whether on their commute or during a work break were disrupted. Even for the most ardent of extroverts, these small windows of peace shows the important role of time alone for our mental health,” Weinstein said.