Tag Archives: mortality

Lonely People Increase Social Skills, Reduce “Choking” by Reframing Anxiety

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Loneliness increases mortality risk by 26 percent, comparable to health risks of obesity, cigarette smoking, and excessive alcohol use, according to Brigham Young University’s Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, and David Stephenson.
Besides the emotional discomfort of loneliness, loneliness harms people’s health.

Timothy Smith

Timothy Smith

Loneliness and social isolation differ.
Some people report feeling lonely in the presence of others, whereas socially isolated people may not report loneliness.
However, both loneliness and social isolation increased risk for mortality in a meta-analysis of more than 3 million participants in studies of loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

Megan Knowles

Megan Knowles

Many people assume that individuals are lonely because they are socially isolated and have poor social skills.
However, lonely individuals may not need to acquire social skills to escape loneliness.
Rather, they seem to benefit more from learning to cope with social performance anxiety, found Franklin & Marshall College’s Megan L. Knowles, Gale M. Lucas of University of Southern CaliforniaFlorida State University’s Roy Baumeister, and Wendi L. Gardner of Northwestern.

Gale M. Lucas

Gale M. Lucas

More than 85 volunteers completed a loneliness self-report, then identified emotions on computer-presented faces.
Lonely people out-performed non-lonely people when social sensitivity tasks were described as measures of academic aptitude.

Roy Baumeister

However, lonely participants performed worse when tasks were presented as tests of social aptitude.
These volunteers also reported difficulty forming and maintaining friendships, suggesting that social anxiety leads to “choking” in social “performance” situations.
The result is continued loneliness.

Wendi Gardner

Wendi Gardner

Yet, lonely people may be more socially competent than the non-lonely:  They were more skilled at remembering social information in studies by Northwestern’s Wendi L. Gardner, Cynthia L. Pickett of University of California Davis, and Ohio State University’s Marilynn B. Brewer.
The team assessed social recall by presenting volunteers with a simulated computer chat task that provided brief acceptance or rejection experiences, then a diary containing both social and individual events.

Cynthia L. Pickett

Cynthia L. Pickett

Social anxiety identified by Knowles’ team could be reattributed feelings to an external cause and resulted in increased performance.

They demonstrated this shift when they gave volunteers a non-caffeinated energy beverage, and mentioned that any jitters they might experience resulted from the “caffeine” they’d just consumed.
This explanation provided a plausible but false rationale for anxious feelings.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

previous blog post outlined a similar finding by Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks, that reframing nervousness as “excitement” helped people perform better on stressful tasks.

An additional coping approach for lonely people is modifying personal mindsets following social loss cues.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Fixed mindset, suggested Stanford’s Carol Dweck, is a belief that personal capabilities are given, fixedand limited to present capacities.
This perspective is similar to
security-oriented, prevention-focused behaviors of lonely people observed by University of Southern California’s Lucas with Knowles, Gardner, Daniel C. Molden and Valerie E. Jefferis of Northwestern.
This mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.

Daniel Molden

Daniel Molden

In contrast, growth mindset is similar to promotion-focused responses like attempts at social engagement.
This developmental mindset holds that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes.
This perspective enables teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction.

Marilynn Brewer

Marilynn Brewer

Participants received either subtle acceptance cues or rejection cues, which were associated with adopting either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
Those who received positive primes were more able to develop a promotion-focused growth mindset, leading to more effective social thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.

People who experience social anxiety and loneliness can reduce self-protective social avoidance by reframing discomfort as “excitement” and by redirecting mindset to embrace learning and new experience.

-*How do you manage loneliness?

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Cynical Beliefs Linked to Lower Earnings, Poorer Health

Olga Stavrova

Olga Stavrova

People who hold cynical beliefs about human nature and the world have lower incomes than those with a more optimistic view, found University of Cologne’s Olga Stavrova and Daniel Ehlebracht.

Cynical beliefs are measured by statements including:

  • “I think most people would lie to get ahead,”
  • “It’s safer to trust nobody,”
  • “Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.”
Daniel Ehlebracht

Daniel Ehlebracht

People who agree with these ideas may avoid cooperation, trust and collaboration with others and while focusing on monitoring, control, and preventing potential exploitation.

Volunteers who endorsed these self-protective behaviors and cynical beliefs reported lower personal income than people who demonstrate greater trust and interpersonal collaboration in studies using a representative sample of Americans between 1986 and 2012, and replicated with a representative German group between 2003 and 2012.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

A related study showed that income-suppressing cynical beliefs are not associated with enduring personality characteristic measured by Robert McCrae of NIH and Paul Costa’s Big Five personality dimensions.

In addition, lower earnings were not explained by cynical individuals’ poorer health, lower education, and greater agreement with items that measure neuroticism and introversion.

Paul Costa

Paul Costa

However, some cynical beliefs are justified by the local environment, such as in counties with low levels of charitable giving, high homicide rates and high overall societal cynicism levels.
Survey data from 41 countries showed that people in these contexts who held cynical beliefs did not have lower personal income than those with more optimistic views.

Anna-Maija Tolppanen

Anna-Maija Tolppanen

Holding cynical beliefs about people was also associated with greater risk of dementia and death among the elderly in a study over 8 to 10 years, according to University of Eastern Finland’s Elisa NeuvonenMinna Rusanen, Anna-Maija Tolppanen, collaborating with Alina Solomon of University of Kuopio, Flinders University’s Tiina Laatikainen, with Tiia Ngandu of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, Hilkka Soininen of Hospital District of North Karelia, and Kuopio University Hospital’s Miia Kivipelto.

Alina Solomon

Alina Solomon

The team measured cynical distrust with the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale (CMHS) by University of Minnesota’s Walter Cook and Donald Medley, and cognitive status using screening, clinical phase, and differential diagnosis using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for more than 1450 people.

People with highest level of cynical distrust had higher risk of dementia after the researchers controlled for confounding factors including:

  • Age,
  • Gender,
  • Systolic blood pressure,
  • Total cholesterol,
  • Fasting glucose,
  • Body mass index,
  • Socioeconomic background,
  • Smoking,
  • Alcohol use,
  • Self-reported health,
  • Apolipoprotein E (APOE).
Tiina Laatikainen

Tiina Laatikainen

People with highest levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism, even when Neuvonen’s team controlled for effects of dementia risk, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

Tiia Ngandu

Tiia Ngandu

This finding supports suggestions that people who are more open and optimistic have a lower risk for dementia.

Hilary Tindle

Hilary Tindle

In related findings, positive expectations about the future, and trait optimism were associated with reduced rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) and mortality in postmenopausal women, reported University of Pittsburgh’s Hilary A. Tindle, Yue-Fang Chang, Lewis H. Kuller, Greg J. Siegle, Karen A. Matthews, collaborating with Harvard’s JoAnn E. Manson, Jennifer G. Robinson of University of Iowa, and University of Massachusetts’ Milagros C. Rosal.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

More than 97,250 white and black women with no signs of cancer and cardiovascular disease completed the Life Orientation Test–Revised (LOT-R) by Carnegie Mellon’s Michael Scheier and Charles Carver of University of Miami, plus the Cook Medley Questionnaire’s cynicism subscale.

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Women who scored in the top quartile for optimism had lower age-adjusted rates of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and total mortality.
Black women with this optimistic perspective also had significantly less cancer-related mortality.

In contrast, those who scored in the top quartile for cynical hostility had significantly higher rates of CHD and total mortality, reinforcing the value of cultivating a positive viewpoint.

Hilkka Soininen

Hilkka Soininen

Likewise, individuals with the highest cynical distrust measured by Cook-Medley Hostility Scale had higher risk of dementia after adjusting for confounding factors including socioeconomic position, lifestyle, alcohol use, and health status, found Neuvonen’s team.

Financial, physical, and cognitive well-being can be enhanced by cultivating optimism and trust and reducing cynicism.

-*How do you increase and sustain optimism, trust, and collaboration?

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