Course Syllabus

Psychology of Loneliness

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2024 Session 1 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines: Psychology, Human Development, Sociology
Faculty Members:

Hannaneh Yazdi (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact:

Department email address

Academic Support 

Time & Place:

See course schedule for daily meeting times

Room: TBA


Course Description: 

What is loneliness, and what causes it? Is it the nature of our human condition? Is it a feeling or a thought? Does age, personality, or status matter? Topics to be considered: The causes and consequences of loneliness from a psychological perspective and the impact of modern society; sources of resilience and vulnerabilities; implications of loneliness vs. aloneness/solitude; interventions for alleviating loneliness. What part does loneliness play in the normal development of people during a life span? Some special challenges and pathologies involving loneliness will be explored, as well as cultural implications and the Scandinavian perspective.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, you'll gain insights into below learning objectives among many other soft skills:

  • Explore the construct of loneliness and contributing variables based on psychological theory and research.
  • To look at loneliness and its relationship to psychological health through a lifespan
  • To investigate particular challenges/pathology involving loneliness
  • To compare psychological interventions for the assessment, prevention, and treatment of loneliness.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and research skills by exploring a topic of the team's (3-4 students) choice in the field of the psychology of food that is not covered in the below section, Lecture Topics.


Lecture topics: 

The lectures are designed mainly according to the course's mandatory textbook:

Cacioppo, John T.; Patrick, William. (2008) Loneliness—Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. New York:  W. W. Norton & Company. 

These specific topics will be presented by the course instructor and the guest lecturers*

  1. Definitions and measurements of loneliness. (Ch. 1)
  2. From early to middle childhood: the influence of attachment patterns (Ch. 2)
  3. From early to middle childhood: Theory of Mind  (Ch. 3&4)
  4. Social Connections in Unexpected Places
  5. Loneliness in the Young Adulthood, Adulthood & Elderly(Ch. 5, 6 & 10)
  6. Coping Strategies, Health Effects, Sex, and Age (Ch. 8 & 9)
  7. Skills to Handle Loneliness (Clinical Perspective)*
  8. Loneliness and Mental Health: Breaking the Cycle*
  9. Artful Encounters and Slowing Down*


  • The topics are ordered according to the course schedule to present students with an overview of course learning objectives flow.
  • Chapter (Ch.) numbers are based on Cacioppo J. & William Patrick's textbook. The textbook will be provided by DIS for all the students enrolled in this course. 
  • All readings are due by the start of class.
  • A brief description of each topic and reading materials are available on each session schedule.
  • The lecture slides will be accessible after each session in the Files under the Lecture Slides section on Canvas in PDF format.
  • The "Social Connections in Unexpected Places" session is designed for watching a documentary/film in the classroom, followed by a discussion led by the instructor.
  • Topics that will be presented by each team will be added (in total, six more topics based on a class size of 22-25 students. 



Hannaneh Yazdi_1-Edit-1.JPG

Hannaneh Yazdi has been a member of the DIS faculty since the spring of 2023, lecturing and designing courses in the Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience Program throughout the semester and summer. She brings her working experiences in research and development, product creation, leadership, and team empowerment, as well as inclusive community design, into her classrooms. With an interdisciplinary background spanning human behavior, management, and engineering, she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, division of Psychology, finalizing the last year of her research. Aside from her research focus, she has been frequently invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at various universities and companies. She brings a unique blend of experiences, having been immersed in both academic settings and the corporate world for over eight years at Volvo Cars within the Research and Development organization. Beyond her professional pursuits, she has a passion for music, strong yoga practices, and a deep appreciation for the arts, particularly painting and digital arts. For those curious about her previous and current activities, more information can be found on her profile on LinkedIn.


Universal Design Teaching Approach: Fusion of Active and Passive Learning

In a rapidly evolving world, providing students with both knowledge and active skills is important. This class is not designed according to a traditional classroom, and the students need to expect to have a balanced mix of engaging lectures and dynamic team activities. From team presentations to journal clubs, this class will be a space for not only learning but also building essential soft skills for current and future development both at personal and team levels. Therefore, this class is community-based and value-driven.

  • Passive Learning: Passive learning involves receiving information from the instructor or guest lecturers without actively engaging with the knowledge. It's a more traditional form of education where students are listeners and observers rather than active participants. Examples of passive learning include attending lectures, watching educational videos, or reading textbooks. While passive learning can provide foundational knowledge, it often requires additional effort for students to understand and retain information fully.
  • Active Learning: Active learning is a dynamic and participatory approach where students are directly involved in the learning process. This method requires students to engage with the material through discussions, problem-solving, team projects, and hands-on experiences. Active learning promotes critical thinking, collaboration, and a deeper understanding of the subject. It encourages students to apply knowledge in practical situations, fostering a more comprehensive and lasting grasp of the concepts.


Expectations: Value-Driven Classroom

This class will shape a county through the semester, built on values – trust, curiosity, and collaboration. Self-motivation is crucial, and the instructor and the students will ensure their space is where everyone feels heard, seen, and understood by trusting the process, staying curious, and embracing collaboration for a meaningful learning experience.

  1. Trust: Commitment, respect for oneself and others, and taking responsibility are integral. It's about creating a safe psychology within the classroom, where everyone feels secure to express themselves.
  2. Curiosity: Embrace differences and see them as opportunities for growth. This class values demographic, cognitive, and neurodiversity, as they bring different perspectives, fostering creativity and innovation.
  3. Collaboration: Collaboration is vital in this interconnected community by enabling the development of collaborative skills such as decision-making, communication, and problem-solving. 

If these values are embodied, a positive classroom environment is naturally contributed to through punctuality, engagement, and commitment to the learning process, with communication being the key.


Guest Lecturers

Doctor Martina Wolf Arehult is an expert in eating disorders, borderline personality disorders, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and Radically open DBT (RO DBT). She has several research papers and publications in the fields of DBT, mindfulness, RO DBT, and loneliness. Recent publication in Swedish: “Ut ur ensamheten” (2023) (Leaving the loneliness). For more than 20 years, Martina has worked as a team leader or director at different university clinics (Tübingen University Clinic, Germany, Akademiska Sjukhuset in Uppsala, and Psykiatri Nordväst in Stockholm, and has been in charge of both DBT-teams and Eating disorder units. Doctor Martina Wolf Arehult's lecture was scheduled for the topic Skills to Handle Loneliness. The lecture is described as "Loneliness has been defined as a worldwide problem in society. The lecture will include 1) questions to ask before starting to work with problems related to loneliness, 2) effective strategies for leaving loneliness (based on CBT/DBT, RO DBT, and existential psychotherapy/dilemmas)". 


Doctor Sara Widén is a licensed psychologist and a lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. She has extensive experience in clinical treatment (Cognitive Behavior Therapy, CBT) and, as an educator, specializes in the field of behavior change and health promotion. Doctore Sara Widén's lecture is planned for the topic titled Loneliness and Mental Health: Breaking the Cycle. "This lecture examines the reciprocal relationship between loneliness and mental health, specifically depression and anxiety. As loneliness becomes a risk factor, and mental health challenges intensify vulnerability to isolation, we explore the crucial understanding of these dynamics. From both clinical and everyday psychological perspectives, we highlight actionable insights into behavior change for preventing and disrupting these cycles".


Klas Nervin is an artistic researcher and senior lecturer in improvisation at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Moreover, he is a composer-musician who uses piano and live electronics to explore new terrains for improvisation inspired by free jazz and experimental music as well as North-Indian and other non-European traditions. His artistic research focuses on co-creation and improvisation across genres and art forms and on transdisciplinary connections among art, philosophy, and science. He also has a background as a researcher on yoga and meditation in the History of Religions. Here is more information about him on his website and a collection of his music projects. His lecture is titled Artful Encounters and Slowing Down. Klas Nervin said, "In this lecture, I will discuss artistic experience in relation to topics of decoloniality, micropolitics, mindfulness, and process philosophy."


Field Studies

Field Study 1: Fotografiska 

The detailed plan and timing will communicated inside the Field Study section.

This unique opportunity will allow you to delve into the captivating world of photography in a dynamic and interactive setting. Fotografiska is known for its exceptional exhibitions and diverse collection of visual narratives. During your time at Fotografiska, you will have the chance to explore thought-provoking exhibitions, engage with the work of renowned photographers, and gain insights into the power of visual storytelling. This hands-on experience at Fotografiska will not only broaden your artistic horizons but also provide a deeper understanding of the impact and influence of photography in contemporary society. Get ready to absorb, question, and be inspired by the rich visual tapestry that awaits you at Fotografiska.



The course consists of lectures, discussions, and assignments at home and in class for individuals and teams, as well as field studies. Students’ attendance at the classes, visits, and their active participation in the discussions are mandatory and taken into account in the evaluation. In discussions and assignments, students are required to demonstrate that they read and understood the required literature. They should be able to integrate their knowledge to discuss in-depth research questions and topics. Showing independent and critical thinking is expected.

Here is the outline of the course assessment. It is holistic, incorporating both individual and team-based components. Each assignment description and its requirements are presented in the assignment sections, followed by their respective grading matrix files available under the Files section on Rubric.

  1. Active Class Participation (Individual) - Constituted 15% of the total grade: Actively engage in discussion activities and present a concise elevator pitch to showcase your communication skills.
  2. Active Participation in Canvas Discussion and Assignments (Individual) - Constituted 30% of the total grade: Contribute meaningfully to online discussions on the Canvas platform.
  3. Observational Studies (Individual) - Constituted 10% of the total grade: Conduct research or observations related to the psychology of food outside the classroom setting, reflecting on real-world experiences.
  4. Team Project (Team) - Constituted 45% of the total grade: Each team will learn about loneliness's complex and interdisciplinary aspects by taking an active learning approach. In this research project, each team should determine a specific topic for their project based on the topics that are not covered in Lecture Topics. Each team has a total of 1.25 sessions throughout the semester for their project to be presented in two separate sessions: Research Project Presentation and Creative Project Pitch.
    • Research Presentation (15%): Clearly communicate your team's research purpose, method, and findings. Each team is assigned an entire session to present their research, fostering interactive discussion and learning among their peers in the classroom.
    • Research Report (15%): Submit a detailed report outlining your research process, methodology, findings, and conclusions.
    • Creative Project Pitch (10%): after each research presentation, each team can present a solution to support the knowledge gap or any challenges they have found in their project research. The assignment encourages all teams to think out of the box, collaborate across disciplines, and present their creative solution in various engaging formats such as podcasts, board games, brochures for family members, policy briefs for lawmakers, toolkits for teens, a resource for schoolteachers, etc. by the limited time of 20 minutes. Using a creative rather than a more traditional presentation format is strongly recommended.
    • Research Checkpoint (5%): Ensure continuous progress through small submissions at each stage. 


  • In the case of team projects, the deadline for submitting only one member is required to submit the materials, and all group members will assess their own and others’ contributions afterward, thereby influencing the overall grade calculation.
  • The deadlines for Research Project Report submissions and individual reflections on project research teamwork vary based on the assigned time slot for each team and individual (if individual submission is required). The deadlines are communicated within the assignments section, and only the final deadline is visible on the schedule. This deviation is implemented to ensure equal timing for each team and individual to finalize their assignments, considering the team presentation timelines outlined in the course schedule. The decision not to create different deadlines on the calendar was made to avoid confusion and maintain a cleaner and more prioritized schedule for most activities.
  • The Research Project reports will be reviewed by other teams to provide an opportunity for other team members to learn from the report and demonstrate critical thinking in written format. The final grade is according to peer review and the teacher evaluation. 
  • Both Journal Club and Research Project Presentation will be evaluated by other students in the class anonymously, and the final grade will be according to the teacher's evaluation. 


DIS Class Policies

Late papers/assignments:

  • Late papers/assignments will be accepted for up to 3 days after the deadline, but the grade for the paper will be reduced by 10% for each day that it is late. Please note that some assignments cannot be submitted late because they require presentation during class time (i.e., co-facilitation and expert presentation).

Late to class:

  • Students who are repeatedly late for class will receive a lower participation grade.
  • Use of cell phones is not allowed during class (including field trips).
  • NB: If your use of technology is due to a learning accommodation required for you to succeed in class, please discuss it with Academic Support or the instructor directly.




Active Class Participation (Individual)


Discussion Forum and Reflective Assignments (Individual)


Observational Studies (Individual)


Team Project


 Detailed assignment descriptions and rubrics are available via Canvas and in class.  


Required readings will be listed for each individual class, so please check the calendar to identify what you should read before class. 

Mandatory Textbook: 

Cacioppo, John T.; Patrick, William. (2008) Loneliness—Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. New York:  W. W. Norton & Company.

Optional Readings:

Badcock, J., C., Shah, S., Mackinnon, A., Stain, H., J., Galletly, C., Jablensky, A., Morgan, V., A. (2015).  Loneliness in psychotic disorders and its association with cognitive function and symptom profile. Schizophrenia Research, 169(1-3), 268-273.

Blossom, P., Apsche, J. (2013). Effects of Loneliness on Human Development. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 7(4), 28-29.

Creswell, J.D. (2012). Mindfulness-based stress reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: a small randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 26, 1095-1101.

Dahlberg, L., McKee, K. J., Lennartsson, C., & Rehnberg, J. (2022). A social exclusion perspective on loneliness in older adults in the Nordic countries. European Journal of Ageing, 19, 175-188.

Eisma, M., C., Schut, H., A. W., Stroebe, M., Boelen, P., A., van den Bout, J., Stroebe, W. (2015). Adaptive and maladaptive rumination after loss: A three-wave longitudinal study. British Journal of Clinical Psychology54(2), 163 – 180.

Foster, C. E., Horwitz, A., Thomas, A., Opperman, K., Gipson, P., Burnside, A., King, C. A. (2017). Connectedness to family, school, peers, and community in socially vulnerable adolescents. Children and Youth Services Review, 81, 321-331. doi:

Kelly, K., R. (2015). Insecure attachment representations and child personal narrative structure: implications for delayed discourse in preschool-age children. Attachment & Human Development, 17(5), 448-471.

Lykes, V., A., Kemmelmeier, M. (2014). What Predicts Loneliness? Cultural Difference between individualistic and collectivistic Societies in Europe. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45, 468-490.

Matthews, T., Danese, A., Wertz, J., Odgers, C.L., Ambler, A., Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L. (2016). Social isolation, loneliness and depression in young adulthood: a behavioral genetic analysis. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol, 51, 399-348. DOI 10.1007/s00127-016-1178-7.

Pearl, A. & Dykstra, P., A. (2009). Older Adult Loneliness: Myths and Realities. Eur J Ageing6(2), 91–100.

Peng, J., Chen, Y., Xia, Y., & Ran, Y. (2017). Workplace loneliness, leader-member exchange, and creativity: The cross-level moderating role of leader compassion. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 510-515. doi:

Pittman, M. & Reich, B. (2016). Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words. Computers in Human Behavior. 62, 155-167.

Priest, N., Perry, R., Ferdinand, A., Kelaher, M., Paradies, Y. (2017). Effects over time on self-reported direct vicarious racial discrimination on depressive symptoms and loneliness among Australian school students. BMC Psychiatry, (17) 50. 

Rokach, A. (2001). Strategies of coping with loneliness throughout the Lifespan. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues20(1), 3-18.

Russell, D., W., Cutrona, C., Mcrae, C. & Gomez, M. (2012). Is loneliness the same as being alone? The Journal of Psychology, 146(1-2), 7-22.

Schliehe, A., Laursen, J. Crewe, B. (2021).  Loneliness in prison. European Journal of Criminology.

Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., Joel, S., & Impett, E. A. (2016). Longing for Ex-Partners out of Fear of Being Single. Journal Of Personality84(6), 799-808. doi:10.1111/jopy.12222

Tiilikainen, E., & Seppänen, M. (2016). Lost and unfulfilled relationships behind emotional loneliness in old age. Ageing and Society, 1-21.

Wilson R.S., Krueger K.R., Arnold S.E., Schneider J.A., Kelly J.F., Barnes L.L.,. (2007).
Loneliness and risk of Alzheimer's disease. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64,

Wilson, L. and Liss, M. (2022). Belonging and loneliness as mechanisms in the psychological impact of discrimination among transgender college students. Journal of LGBT Youth. DOI:1080/19361653.2022.2049418.

Black, R. S., & Kammes, R. R. (2019). Restrictions, power, companionship, and intimacy: A metasynthesis of people with intellectual disability speaking about sex and relationships. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 57(3), 212-233,260,262. doi:

Connolly, A. (2011). Healing the wounds of our fathers: intergenerational trauma, memory, symbolization and narrative. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 56(5), 607–626.

Daubney, M., Bateman, A. (2015).  Mentalization-based therapy (MBT): an overview. Australasian Psychiatry, 23(2), 132-135.

Flett, G., L., Goldstein, A., L., Petchenkov, I., C., Nepon, T., & Wekerle, C. (2015). Antecedents, correlates and consequences of feeling like you don't matter: Associations with maltreatment, loneliness, social anxiety and the five factor model. Personality and individual differences, 92, 52–56.

Harrell, S., P. (2000). A multidimensional conceptualization of racism-related stress: Implications for the well-being of people of color. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70 (1), 42-57.

Hazan, C.C., & Shaver, P.D. (1987). Romantic love is conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52 3, 511-24. 

Jackson, N. A. (2015). Music Therapy and Chronic Mental illness: overcoming the silent symptoms. Music Therapy Perspectives,33(2), 90-96.

Jobes, D., Au, J., Siegelman, A. (2015). Psychological Approaches to Suicide Treatment and Prevention. Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry, 2(4), 363 – 370.

Kolk, B. (2016). Commentary: The devastating effects of ignoring child maltreatment in psychiatry - a commentary on Teicher and Samson 2016. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, (3), 267. Retrieved from

Mancini, A. D. (2019). When acute adversity improves psychological health: A social–contextual framework.Psychological Review, 126(4), 486-505. doi:

McWilliams, N. (2017). Integrative research for integrative practice: A plea for respectful collaboration across clinician and researcher roles. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 27(3), 283-295. doi:

Martiny, S. E., & Nikitin, J. (2019). Social identity threat in interpersonal relationships: Activating negative stereotypes decreases social approach motivation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 25(1), 117-128. doi:

Pollack, W. S. (2006). The "war" for boys: Hearing "real boys'" voices, healing their pain. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(2), 190-195. doi:

Sbarra, D., A., Smith, H., L., Mehl, M., R. (2012). When Leaving Your Ex, Love Yourself: Observational Ratings of Self-Compassion Predict the Course of Emotional Recovery Following Marital Separation. Psychological Science, 23(3). 261-269.

Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., Joel, S., & Impett, E. A. (2016). Longing for Ex-Partners out of Fear of Being Single. Journal Of Personality84(6), 799-808. doi:10.1111/jopy.12222

Thelamour, B., George Mwangi, C., & Ezeofor, I. (2019). "We need to stick together for survival": Black college students' racial identity, same-ethnic friendships, and campus connectedness. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, doi:

Weissman, D., Bitran, D., Miller, A., Schaefer, J., Sheridan, M., & McLaughlin, K. (2019). Difficulties with emotion regulation as a transdiagnostic mechanism linking child maltreatment with the emergence of psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 31(3), 899-915. doi:10.1017/S0954579419000348.


Disability and Resource Statement

Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Support (email) to coordinate this.  In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We believe that embracing diversity in all aspects of the learning and working environment is necessary for students and organizations to reach their full potential.

We strive to create a community in which each member feels welcome and supported, irrespective of their identities and life experiences. This includes, but is not limited to, diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, and socio-economic background.

Students’ interactions with the new and unfamiliar is an integral part of a formative study abroad experience. The learning environment we create pulls from both the U.S. higher education context and the Scandinavian experience of diversity to empower students to learn from their surroundings and from one another. Our goal is to foster a space for discussion and debate of different views while upholding our unwavering commitment to diversity and respect for others.

We work towards putting diversity, equity, and inclusion at the center of how we define an impactful learning environment – and do this by improving financial support, building inclusive learning and social spaces, providing staff and faculty DEI training, and rethinking access to DIS.

Academic Regulations

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on the following:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -



Course Summary:

Date Details Due