Childhood loneliness linked to stress and pro

Before the pandemic, more 1 in 10 children aged 10 to 12 reported being alone.

New research has shown that the experience of loneliness as a preteen child predicts alcohol problems years later in early adulthood.

Alcohol abuse is not the only health problem linked to loneliness. In the elderly, solitude contributes to poor physical health, including dementia, heart disease and stroke.

Researchers at Arizona State University examined the effects of childhood loneliness on current stress levels and drinking behaviors in young adults. The study will be published in Addictive Behavior Reports.

“Among young adults, childhood loneliness before age 12 was associated with perceived stress in the moment and affected dysregulated drinking,” said Julie Patock-Peckham, assistant research professor in the Department of Psychology at the ASU.

Because stress affects if people drink too much, especially womenthe research team tested whether past experiences of loneliness had an impact on the stress people feel today.

More than 300 college students participated in the study, completing assessments of childhood loneliness, current stress levels and drinking behaviors. Feeling lonely in the past was linked to current stress levels and drinking habits.

Higher levels of loneliness before age 12 predicted more stress in early adulthood that was associated with greater alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems.

“The data used in this study was collected before the pandemic, and the results suggest that we could have another public health crisis on our hands in a few years as today’s children grow up,” Patock-said Peckham. “We need more research to find out if alleviating childhood loneliness could be a way to disrupt the pathways that lead to alcohol use disorders in adults. Combating childhood loneliness should help reduce impaired alcohol control, especially in women.

This study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Burton Family Foundation. The research team also included Sophia Berbian and Kiana Guarino, undergraduate students at ASU; Tanya Gupta, recent graduate of the PhD program in psychology; and Federico Sanabria and Frank Infurna, associate professors of psychology.

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