Your Crushing Loneliness Might Be Making You Sick

Illustration for article titled Your Crushing Loneliness Might Be Making You Sick

New research presented this week at the annual meeting of the Insult to Injury Papercut Society suggests that chronic loneliness can have a negative effect on our immune systems. Awesome, guys. I mean, can we not give the lonely people one break? Now they have to have mono too? With no one to bring them soup? It's a human rights issue, is what it is.

[P]eople who are lonely experience more reactivation of latent viruses in their systems than the well-connected. Lonely people also are more likely than others to produce inflammatory compounds in response to stress, a factor implicated in heart disease and other chronic disorders.

...Researchers have long known that chronic stress has a similar inflammation-producing, immune-disrupting effect on the body. Loneliness, in fact, may act as its own source of chronic stress, Jaremka said. Earlier research shows that close and connected relationships are necessary to help people thrive; without them, people are under a constant stressful cloud of missing this crucial social connection.

People who are lonely also tend to react more strongly to negative events in their lives, Jaremka said. If lonely people experience daily life as more stressful, it may cause chronic stress, which in turn disrupts the immune system.


This, obviously, is heartbreaking. But as a person not wholly unfamiliar with loneliness myself, I have to jump on it as a glass-half-full opportunity. At least it's the one health problem where "more bourbon and Yahtzee with your weird cousin" is a legitimate treatment method! And instead of thinking of it as your body itself not even wanting to be around you and telling you to fuck off, you could look at it as your body ushering in millions of tiny new best friends for you to talk to! Sure, they might be viruses that are relentlessly feeding on your will to live, but at least they're loyal.

Right, guys?

Sigh. Yeah. This shit sucks. I'm sorry.

Photo credit: Novic / Stockfresh.

Loneliness Is Bad for Your Health, Study Suggests [LiveScience]



Obviously we have to distinguish between "lonely", an emotional response which can occur even with other people around, and "alone" which, for the solitary-minded, could be a welcome and chosen state and not at all stressful. As an introvert, if I was forced to be surrounded by people all the time I would be very unhappy — angry, tired, resentful. While others would thrive on that and dislike even a few hours of solitude. So really, any life situation that doesn't suit your temperament can be stressful.