Joshua Gross (Biological Scieces), Rebecca Lee (Nursing), and Maobing Tu (Environmental Engineering) on transdisciplinary approaches to loneliness in older adults. The study is motivated by the fact that loneliness in older adults is chronic and has been linked to detrimental health outcomes. Lonliness is also increasingly wide-spread, due to urbanization and digitization trends. However, relevant interventions are difficult to formulate, since loneliness is a complex, multivalent phenomena irreducible to simple social isolation. Consequently, there is a need to construct a multidimentional measure for loneliness that can ground innovative interventions.

"> Joshua Gross (Biological Scieces), Rebecca Lee (Nursing), and Maobing Tu (Environmental Engineering) on transdisciplinary approaches to loneliness in older adults. The study is motivated by the fact that loneliness in older adults is chronic and has been linked to detrimental health outcomes. Lonliness is also increasingly wide-spread, due to urbanization and digitization trends. However, relevant interventions are difficult to formulate, since loneliness is a complex, multivalent phenomena irreducible to simple social isolation. Consequently, there is a need to construct a multidimentional measure for loneliness that can ground innovative interventions.

"> Joshua Gross (Biological Scieces), Rebecca Lee (Nursing), and Maobing Tu (Environmental Engineering) on transdisciplinary approaches to loneliness in older adults. The study is motivated by the fact that loneliness in older adults is chronic and has been linked to detrimental health outcomes. Lonliness is also increasingly wide-spread, due to urbanization and digitization trends. However, relevant interventions are difficult to formulate, since loneliness is a complex, multivalent phenomena irreducible to simple social isolation. Consequently, there is a need to construct a multidimentional measure for loneliness that can ground innovative interventions.

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Zvi Biener

Loneliness

I am working with Joshua Gross (Biological Scieces), Rebecca Lee (Nursing), and Maobing Tu (Environmental Engineering) on transdisciplinary approaches to loneliness in older adults. The study is motivated by the fact that loneliness in older adults is chronic and has been linked to detrimental health outcomes. Lonliness is also increasingly wide-spread, due to urbanization and digitization trends. However, relevant interventions are difficult to formulate, since loneliness is a complex, multivalent phenomena irreducible to simple social isolation. Consequently, there is a need to construct a multidimentional measure for loneliness that can ground innovative interventions.

Our groups aims to characterizes loneliness in older adults along several dimensions – psychological, social, biological, and environmental (PSBE) – with the aim of determining measureable markers, correlating their interactions, and formulating a multivariate metric. We hypothesize that the various markers of loneliness exhibit repeatable and systematic correlations which are not reducible to the effects of a single set of markers. If the hypothesis proves correct, it will provide a comprehensive, 360-degree view of loneliness, and open the door to complex interventions. If it proves incorrect, inconsequential interventions can be eliminated and research focused on the set of markers that prove significant. Either a positive or a null result is highly significant. The study consists of two major aims.

The first major aim is to characterize loneliness through psychological and sociological measures obtained through hermeneutic-phenomenological interviews. We hypothesize that loneliness in 21st-century American society is different from previous forms of loneliness, and that existing psychological measures must be modified to capture it. Through interviews, we will allow self-identified lonely seniors to characterize the experience of loneliness from a first-person perspective. The reported, lived experience serves as the fundamental phenomena in relation to which other markers will be evaluated. This bottom-up approach is necessary in order to preclude predefining loneliness and then circularly confirming the definition.

The second aim is to identify non-psychological biomarkers associated with loneliness in the human gut biome and gut metabolites (GBGM). GBGM composition has been shown to have significant impact on mental health, particularly depression. We hypothesize GBGM is also linked to loneliness, but that it can be distinguished from the GBGM characterization of depression. As loneliness is often conflated with depression, an independent, non self-reported measure of loneliness is necessary in order to disaggregate treatments. Through whole genome sequencing of fecal samples from lonely and non-lonely adults, the presence of microbes, bacteria, and viruses correlated with loneliness will be determined. Correlation will tested against the complex picture of loneliness of Aim 1.

We also aim to identify the environmental markers of loneliness, but that part of the study will await preliminary results from the first two aims. We collect preliminary data in spring of 2020, through the generous support of UC’s Office of Research.