Loneliness may threaten your physical health
Feeling lonely can tax your mental well-being, and a recent study finds that loneliness could threaten your physical health, too.
Researchers found what they say are a links between loneliness and the activation of a latent herpes virus in the body. The study showed that lonely people have higher levels of both inflammation and elevated herpes virus. Chronic inflammation has been tied to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s. Loneliness appears to put stress on the immune system as well.
“It is clear from previous research that poor-quality relationships are linked to a number of health problems, including premature mortality and all sorts of other very serious health conditions,” said lead researcher Lisa Jaremka, of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University in a statement. “And people who are lonely clearly feel like they are in poor-quality relationships.”
The findings were based on comparisons between groups of people who considered themselves lonely with others who said they had good social connections. Levels of loneliness were measured using a survey that asked questions about social isolation.
“One reason this type of research is important is to understand how loneliness and relationships broadly affect health,” Jaremka said. “The more we understand about the process, the more potential there is to counter those negative effects.”
Health experts say people who feel lonely or isolated should consider seeing a physician or therapist who can talk about treatment and follow-up care.
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