The Psychological Structure of Loneliness

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 3 (19):1061 (2022)
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Despite the current surge of interest in loneliness, its health consequences, and possible remedies, the concept itself remains poorly understood. This paper seeks to contribute to a more fully worked out account of what loneliness consists in. It does this by stressing that loneliness always has an experiential component and by introducing a simple psychological structure to analyze the experience. On this basis, it suggests that we can distinguish between three ways of thinking about the phenomenal dimension of loneliness. There are objectivist views that seek to understand loneliness by a description of its intentional object, subjectivist views that consider its holistic relation to other aspects of the sufferer's psyche, and embodied and enacted views that focus on the relation between the lonely person's mental life and her social environment. The aim is not to adjudicate between these views or to suggest that they are mutually exclusive. Rather, this paper recommends a pluralistic framework on which all three approaches have something to contribute to a fuller understanding of the condition and may be of use in devising measures aimed at improving sufferers' health.

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