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Humans, by nature, are social beings. This is evident by any number of examples, ranging from the psychological effects of solitary confinement in prisons, to the plethora of social media platforms available today. Humans, clearly, have a desire, if not a need, to be surrounded by and interact with others. Because of this, loneliness, especially its relationship to social support, has been a strong topic of research in academia.
This present study sought to complete a descriptive, cross-sectional analysis that addressed five demographic characteristics (gender, race, relationship status, RSO [Registered Student Organization] or Fraternity/Sorority Membership, and on-campus v/s off-campus living arrangements) and compare those demographics to the perceived loneliness and social support of undergraduate students in 2000-level classes in the Sociology Department of Western Michigan University. Due to this narrow and specific population, it should be made clear that the results of this study are not generalizable to the entire student body of undergrads at Western and this study is not attempting to do so. The undergrads in these classes were generally freshmen or very early in their college careers. College freshmen and undergrads just starting college are populations often targeted in loneliness studies because the transition into college, be it from high school, military service, etc., can often be a difficult one that results in higher levels of loneliness. Additionally, moving away from home and beginning a new stage of life can result in changes in one’s amount and quality of social support. This study aimed to collect this information for the purposes of identifying the prevalence of the undergrad’s perceived loneliness and social support as well as identify how, if at all, various demographic groups suffer differently from loneliness and lack of social support.
The information gained from this study is important for the university to know for several reasons. First, many studies have found that loneliness is an issue for a significant proportion of the population. Also, the age group that experiences the most loneliness is adolescence to college-age. Additionally, studies have found loneliness to have a relationship with depression as well as suicide. The university should have an interest in their student’s mental health as it contributes to the student’s well-being. Lastly, loneliness has been found to help influence decisions of college attrition. With these findings, not only is there an ethical motivation to examining loneliness, there are also financial and educational motivations.
Kemme, Michael, "Examining the Prevalence of Loneliness and Social Support of Undergraduates in Western Michigan University's Sociology Department" (2020). Honors Theses. 3268.
Honors Thesis-Open Access