Feeling lonely versus being socially isolated
In Britain and the United States, roughly one in three people older than 65 live alone, and in the United States, half of those older than 85 live alone. Studies in both countries show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 percent to 46 percent.
The New York Times, Health
There is a clear distinction between feeling lonely and being socially isolated (for example, a loner).
A loner is a person who avoids or does not actively seek human interaction. There are many reasons for solitude, intentional or not. Intentional reasons include being introverted, spiritual, mystic, or include religious and personal philosophies considerations. Unintentional reasons involve being highly sensitive, extremely shy, past trauma, or having various mental disorders.
Loneliness is as a discrepancy between one’s necessary and achieved levels of social interaction, while solitude is simply the lack of contacts. Loneliness is therefore a subjective experience; if a person thinks he is lonely, then he is lonely. People can be lonely while in solitude, or in the middle of a crowd. What makes a person lonely is the fact that they need more social interaction or a certain type of social interaction that is not currently available. A person can be in the middle of a party and feel lonely.
Conversely, one can be alone and not feel lonely; even though there is no one around that person is not lonely because there is no desire for social interaction. There have also been suggestions that each person has their own paradigm of social interaction.
Solitude can have positive effects on individuals. One study found that although time spent alone tended to depress a person’s mood, it also helped to improve their cognitive state, such as improving concentration. Solitude is also associated with other positive growth experiences, religious experiences, and identity building.
Loneliness can also play an important role in the creative process. In some people, temporary or prolonged loneliness can lead to notable artistic and creative expression. This is not to imply that loneliness itself ensures this creativity, rather, it may have an influence on the subject matter of the artist and more likely be present in individuals engaged in creative activities. The existentialist school of thought views loneliness as the essence of being human. Each human being comes into the world alone, travels through life as a separate person, and ultimately dies alone. Coping with this, accepting it, and learning how to direct our own lives with some degree of grace and satisfaction is the human condition.