May 20, during our pandemic-enforced isolation, Dr. Gloria Luong, a research psychologist in emotional health at CSU, talked about the difference between solitude and loneliness, the characteristics of loneliness, and the good and bad aspects of both solitude and loneliness, including what it means to be socially isolated and still maintain contact.  She specifically mentioned an AARP Magazine article ( and congratulated RCFC for using ZOOM to maintain social contact. 
Dr. Luong started by highlighting the differences between solitude (spending time alone) and loneliness (not having social needs met).  She pointed out that isolation may not be so challenging for introverts whereas it could be very challenging for extroverts.  In either case, the more of your social needs that are not met, the lonelier you might be.  In the U.S., some 19% to 29% of older community-residing adults are lonely some or much of the time. 
Unfortunately, loneliness is linked to poorer health and well-being.  People who spend more time alone tend to engage in less healthy behavior (e.g., smoking, drinking).  Loneliness affects changes in neurobiological processes, becoming more reactive to stresses, showing poorer adaptation, and recovering more slowly from stresses.  In contrast, social interactions are one of the most cognitively stimulating activities.  However, social relationships can be a double-edged sword where positive relationships can be very supportive whereas negative relationships can have bad effects. 
There are even some benefits to solitude.  Solitude provides time to re-energize or recharge; it provides time for creative outlets; it provides reduction to exposure to social conflicts. 
She referred to two studies about relationships and isolation.  In one, individuals in low-conflict relationships can be seen to have the same relatively low level of negative effects whether in groups or in isolation, whereas individuals in high-conflict relationships show higher negative effects in general, with greater negative effects in groups than in isolation.  In another study, it appears that older individuals tend to maintain the same level of very close relationships as the young but tend to reduce the abundance of less close relationships; older people are simply less interested in meeting new people, especially if they are happy with their social networks, such as having more close people they can interact with. 
So when is loneliness/solitude associated with positive vs. negative outcomes?  Are your needs being met with respect to contact frequency, social support, and social stimulation?  And are your social relationships satisfactory with respect to control (do you have control over when and how you have social contacts?) and reciprocity (are your social relationships two-way streets?). 
She concluded by saying that, in spite of the limitations imposed by Covid-19 restrictions, there are still studies going on.  We could ask her about aspects of her presentation or volunteer to participate in some of her on-going studies at
In response to questions, she commented on the good community sense and the focus on doing positive, meaningful things in the world in our Rotary club.  With respect to recruiting new members, she commented on the benefits of inter-generational relationships and focused on the benefits of the meaningful work accomplished by our tight-knit organization. 
In looking at the psychological impact of solitude/loneliness in different generations, she commented that her discipline is rarely able to track the same people over long periods of time.  However, it appears that on the average, loneliness peaks for people in their 20s (just getting into the work force), their 50s (careers peaking out), and their late 80s (old social contacts moving away or dying). 
And finally, negative feelings can serve a purpose in that they may provide a spur to action and that there may be an optimal level or balance between positive and negative emotions.