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Monday, November 17, 2008

How Nostalgia Protects Us From Loneliness

A new study by a group of psychologists from Sun Yat-Sen University in China and the University of Southampton in England has identified an interesting connection between loneliness and nostalgia. People who report feeling the loneliest also report receiving the least amount of social support, but they also tend to be the most nostalgic, the study found. And this nostalgia, in turn, increases perceptions of social support—likely helping to counteract the feelings of loneliness. So while the direct effect of loneliness is to reduce perceptions of social support, the indirect effect is to increase the perception of support via nostalgia.
According to the researchers, who published their study in the journal Psychological Science, this "restorative" function of nostalgia is especially apparent among people who are resilient (those who are best able to recover from traumatic events and adversity); in other words, they're more likely to use nostalgia to overcome feelings of loneliness. Yet, they say, potentially anyone "could be trained to benefit from the restorative function of nostalgia when actual social support is lacking or is perceived as lacking." —Heather Wax