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Loneliness and mental wellbeing: An empirical study of the relationship between loneliness and eating disorderrelated symptoms and a meta-analysis of the relationship between depression and loneliness in a student population

Wheeler, Mary-Jane 2022. Loneliness and mental wellbeing: An empirical study of the relationship between loneliness and eating disorderrelated symptoms and a meta-analysis of the relationship between depression and loneliness in a student population. ClinPsy Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The need for meaningful social connections and feelings of belonging are fundamental parts of being human, with a lack or absence of these resulting in the negative experience of loneliness. The experience of loneliness is associated with numerous negative outcomes, encompassing a variety of mental health presentations. This research aims to explore constructs and experiences of loneliness alongside other mental health presentations. The systematic review aimed to explore the current evidence base to better understand the relationship between loneliness and depression in a student population. Transitioning to university is a major life event which can entail greater independence but also a greater pressure to develop new social networks. Moving to a new and unfamiliar environment with minimal known social contacts in proximity can lead to experiences of loneliness, with findings predominantly highlighting that students can experience adverse psychological experiences during this transition. As such the purpose of this meta-analysis was to explore the association between depression and loneliness, captured by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the University of California Los Angeles Loneliness Scale (UCLA) respectively in the student population. Further research questions aimed to consider mediators of this relationship which were reported within the selected studies. Relevant databases were searched with papers being included if they reported quantitative analysis which measured factors of depression and loneliness using the BDI and UCLA respectively in a university student population. Initial research questions sought to determine the presence and nature of this relationship and considered 17 studies which reported correlation analysis between loneliness and depression. A latter research question sought to determine mediators between the primary variables and considered 18 studies. Additional analyses reported within selected papers were considered as to whether these reported additional variables were possible mediators between loneliness and depression. The meta-analyses computed a significant positive correlation between loneliness and depression. The additional research question, considering possible mediators of the relationship between loneliness and depression, highlighted anxiety, rumination hope and problem solving as potentially mediators of this relationship. Overall, the findings provide an insight into possible avenues for future exploration to better understand this link, which could be influential in developing screening procedures for students experiencing depression. The empirical paper explores the relationship between experiences of loneliness, the frequency of the anorexic voice and its impact on eating disorder (ED) symptom severity. Many individuals with EDs report the experience of an internal ‘voice’, often referred to as the ‘Anorexic Voice’ (AV). The relationship between the anorexic voice and the sufferer is unique and has been argued to be a powerful maintaining factor in the longevity and severity of EDs. Due to its noted prevalence within this disorder, it is queried whether the AV has a social function in reducing the negative experiences of loneliness, which are often associated with EDs. The study considered data from 165 individuals who accessed online forums relating to EDs. The sample included individuals who have experienced an AV in some form (AV group) and those who have not (Non-AV group). The study utilised self-report measures via an online questionnaire to explore the predictive validity of variables of loneliness (captured via the University of Los Angeles Loneliness scale - UCLA) and frequency of the AV (captured via the Topography of Voice questionnaire - TOV) on ED symptom severity (captured via the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire - EDE-Q). Confirmatory analysis (AV group only) demonstrated the significance of the independent variables individually predicting ED symptom severity. From the confirmatory analysis, a significant interaction was not found between the two primary variables in predicting ED symptom severity, more significantly than the influence of either variable alone. Exploratory analysis considered the differences between the two groups (AV and Non-AV) in relation to ED symptom severity, as well as considering alternate relevant predictors within this relationship. This included other facets of the experience of the voice including objective measures of the voice such as loudness and clarity, as well as subjective measures including the ‘engagingness’ of the voice and the ‘distressing ’ness’ of the voice. The findings offer insight into possible drivers behind engagement with the AV, as well as the broader trajectory of loneliness and the AV as part of ED presentations in the community. Further research would be beneficial to consider the relational connection to the AV as well as other predictors in the relationship between loneliness, the AV and ED symptom severity. Overall, both papers provide further insight into the impact of loneliness on mental wellbeing. As well as being deeply distressing for individuals, loneliness has wider implications for our communities and society. A better understanding of this experience, the risk factors, and how these relate, can help us to effectively reduce the negative impact of loneliness.

Item Type: Thesis (DClinPsy)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 September 2022
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 02:25

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