Study: Being alone can be good for your mental health, sparks creativity

BUFFALO — When it comes to seeking solitude, many people often blame mental health issues as an underlying cause. But a new study finds that being alone has its benefits too, particularly when it comes to people looking for a surge of creativity.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo interviewed 295 privacy-valuing individuals who reported a variety of reasons for their tendency to spend a lot of time alone, ranging from feeling fear or anxiety around others to preferring to use spare time working on a craft.

Woman alone at sunset
Just because you prefer to be alone doesn’t mean you’re depressed. A new study finds that being anti-social from time to time is linked to creativity.

Although research has traditionally suggested that excessive time alone can be unhealthy, some seclusive pursuits, such as trying to connect to nature or get a better sense of self, can be constructive, the researchers found.

“We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits,” says Julie Bowker, the study’s lead author, in a university release.

“When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal, oftentimes they adopt a developmental perspective,” she continues. “During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re removing yourself too much from your peers, then you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills and other benefits of interacting with your peers.”

Bowker believes that the presumed downsides of being alone and withdrawing have lent such a preference a hard-to-erase stigma.

More recent research, including this latest study, has begun to recognize the potential benefits of alone time — provided it’s an intentional choice prompted by positive emotions.

Deeming individuals who follow such guidelines “unsociable,” Bowker explains that they may enjoy reading, working on the computer, or otherwise spending precious time alone.

Importantly, unsociable individuals, whether young and old, are not at increased risk of experiencing negative health outcomes. In fact, the researchers found that they may enjoy a special benefit: improved creativity.

“Although unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, we know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial,” Bowker emphasizes. “They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers. Therefore, they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude. They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas — like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office.”

Other, less healthy forms of isolation include social avoidance (i.e., choosing to withdraw due to fear), and social withdrawal (i.e., shyness), she notes.

While these two forms may overlap with unsociability, neither would appear to confer the benefits of the latter.

“Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal,” Bowker concludes. “But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”

The study’s findings were published Personality and Individual Differences.


  1. Being alone also prevents one from getting involved with this social media bull. sh.t because you do not need to massage your ego and
    justify your existence. Nobody knows what I have been doing or have done, so? Who give a crap, I see that as good! I know who I am, don’t need anyone to justify me existence.

  2. I love being alone. I do whatever I want. I’ll never get married. Don’t want to. Some of the most famous writers, poets, musicians, and conquerers were loners. I digress….

  3. in my 20’s i would get a gf and no matter how great a girl she was it wouldn’t be long until i was dying to be alone again… rinse and repeat… over and over.

  4. It all sounds great until your creativity involves collecting squirrels for the carnival in mom’s crawl space. Apparently that’s impolite.

  5. I think that people who do studies on being alone are mentally ill. Me..I like being alone because people are so d a m n stupid.

  6. Is it really “isolation” or is it just getting away from all the distractions?

    I lived in a fraternity house when I was in college–way before computers and cellphones–that was for developing my “social skills” I guess. But when I needed to do some serious studying I would get in the car and go to a park in a nearby residential area. I could get a week’s work done in a couple of hours, sitting in the car.

  7. People annoy me…I love my dog and silence,,,People are a nuisance,
    I love being alone except for a woman I know who is the same and we hook up
    a couple times a month,,

  8. I have always been a loner since childhood. I don’t have any anxieties about it, I just find most people shallow and uninteresting. Just look around at the entertainment apparatus that this culture has built. It caters to those with no intellectual depth. The Facebook and cellphone zombies are everywhere and I choose not to interact with them, except in a career related capacity. I’ve been married and divorced twice. In both instances I felt completely at the mercy of someone else’s whims and unable to explore my own thoughts and goals. I find peace in solitude and always have.

  9. I go through phases, some periods of my life have been filled with people and others, such as today, absolutely nobody… I get to a point where everyone just pisses me off and so I push them away! It’s my choice 9 times out of ten. But then I do feel lonely but I look back on the things people do and then it reminds me why I chose this!

    Better to be alone than be surrounded by a bunch of fake users! My most recent ex girlfriend liked to scream in my face a lot and decided to even get physical, punching me in the face repeatedly just because I wouldn’t believe her ridiculous lies, which she later admitted were lies. Why the hell would I want to be around that for example!

    I just find most people to be horrible and clueless! You could say I am making bad choices I guess, but you would think that even by luck I would meet someone that’s nice!

    When I think of the bad times surrounded by people I then appreciate my peace and quiet and solitude.

  10. I love my home solitude, it allows me to sift through my imagination searching for the exact inventive equations having zero negative outside turbulence for Ideas bristling with lights brilliance, thinking way beyond miracles or magic, welding seasoned wisdom into 3D logic, touching upon every informational facet, drinking from my imaginations thought faucet, sparking inventions into realization bliss with perfect electrochemical thought synapses, morphing answers and solutions into actualization, canceling out life’s habitual stifling procrastination, letting my body self-tune adjust to minds motivations with alertness, dexterity, strength, for the inventive occasions utilizing my full-governing daily applied commonsense expressing out of the box thoughts morphed into sense, after all, smooth running healthy inventive reality goes @ the speed and quality freewill choices, If everyone knew this simple fact, the Earth would be such a Heavenly peaceful place to live.

    I try to tell folks this but it goes right over their heads because their so enslaved to fear, myth, superstitions, and stupid repetitive childish radio brainwashing songs of no intelligent value.

    @ 75 yr’old my main get away from todays disturbed reality is solo riding off road Motorcycle in extreme conditions.

  11. Good grief, I would rather be alone than waste my time with a flaming liberal. They just suck the air out the room…

  12. Maybe so, but it can be dangerous depending on your frame of mind. – A number of the mass murders and school shootings you hear about are at the hands of loners.

    1. A number of the mass murders and school shootings you hear about are at the hands of sociopaths. Some of these are people who also use psychotropic or other drugs.

  13. I like being alone because if I spend too much time around people they start giving me money and that threatens my disability payments from the Federal government.

  14. Scientists need to also investigate causes, not just effects.
    For example, earlier in 2017, a rodent study of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance challenged the immune system of a pregnant dam in the equivalent of the middle of the first trimester for humans. The children AND the grandchildren AND the great-grandchildren showed significant impaired sociability, abnormal fear expression, sensorimotor gating deficiencies, and behavioral despair.
    Scientists can’t trace impaired sociability back to the causes in humans if they aren’t even looking.

  15. I have a tenant that texts me often. it drives me nuts. i finally told him to only text the important things; like, “the house is on fire!” I’m an anomaly. I’m a reclusive extrovert.

  16. The majority of relationships I have had required me to forgo personal goals of mine to satisfy the wants of others. I actually enjoy knowing others but prefer living in my own space alone to follow my own goals without being subject to disdain for not dropping everything to the likings of another.

  17. I’ve often wondered about my intense desire for solitude even thought I’ve been married for 37 years. Every job I’ve enjoyed has been one where I was given my assignments and turned loose to complete them alone or a night shift where I took care of the department responsibilities while everyone else went home. Working a day shift only meant navigating the myriad confilicts and alliances a group of people engender. Now, as a rancher, I could not be happier as we have no “hands” other than the kids when I’m up against something too big for one person to handle or working livestock. Renovating the old ranch house, rebuilding fences and repairing the equipment satisfies the need for creatvity. As a pre-teen on my uncle’s ranch hunting and fishing on my own was my greatest joy once my uncle taught me the rules of using firearms and what to watch out for in the pastures. It taught me personal responsibility and observing nature was often more enjoyable than afternoon comedies when I was there. It was “real”. I got my first deer, pretty much alone, when I was 9. The 60s was the last great “hurrah” before civilization began it encroachment in every aspect of our lives.

    I moved 20 times by the time I turned 18, and a few times after that while in the military, so the concept of “peers” in in my life is fairly non-existent. I’ve never been back to a single high school reunion, even though asked many times, and have not stayed in contact with any but a small handful of those I grew up around. I did struggle with intense shyness as a young person but this has waned over the years. At 60 now it was a big surprise to discover that I could keep up with the old guys in the barber shop telling tales last year. Apparently I’ve “arrived”. The few times we make it to large cities like those of East Texas simply reinforce the idea that we, collectively, have gone over a precipice about 30 or so years ago and the frog has been thoroughly boiled in its pot. This is not sustainable for much longer and I thank God every day that I no longer live in one of them.

  18. Alone time is huge. I find most people to be emotionalist sheep, and generally clueless about an astonishing range of subjects. The value of interaction outside of work is overrated. It is necessary, yes, but overrated. A much smaller group of close people is far better than everyone liking you, which in most instances is really just another way of saying you’re full of crap.

  19. Women’s liberation limited the male role. Once your wife starts treating you like a child and not a man; the marriage is over. TV commercials; who is the dumbest person in the commercial? White Male. You wonder why the market for robotic sex dolls are increasing? The future looks like a f**king hell-hole thanks to Liberals.

  20. I ignore these studies. In the past I’ve read that being alone was bad for you. This is sort of like coffee is good/bad/good depending upon the latest studies. Too many PH.D’s with waay to much time on their hands.

  21. Let’s keep this discussion simple. It’s all about space and who is in charge of your space. Those who are conventional allow others to manage their space. Those who are inventional manage their own space. When we are in our creative mode we treasure hoarding our space. When we feel like it, we can open our space up for others to convene. There is a time for keeping your space and a time for giving it up or sharing it. End of message. It is not an either or situation. It can be both.

  22. I have a very intense sales job. I have many friends and date often. When I have a weekend alone with a little “to-do” list, I am happy as a kid on Christmas. Time to read, refinish furniture, cook a great meal, watch home improvement shows, plan, work-out, shop, call friends, pay bills, take a nap. I could go on. I don’t know were this fear of being alone comes from. I cherish time to be alone. I love it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *