More Bad News for The Lonely and Isolated

Posted on September 15, 2007

Remember that study that said that depressed people get sick more often and die earlier than happier people? Well, there's another, even more depressing study which says that lonely people get sick more often and die earlier than people who have lots of friends and family to support them. But does the loneliness actually cause genetic changes in people which makes them more susceptible to illness and death? It looks that way.
The study does not show which came first - the loneliness or the physical traits. But it does suggest there may be a way to help prevent the deadly effects of loneliness, said Steve Cole, a molecular biologist at the University of California Los Angeles who worked on the study.

"What this study shows is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes - the activity of our genes," Cole said. "We have known for years that there is this epidemiological relationship between social support - how many friends and family members you have around you - and a whole bunch of physical outcomes," he said in a telephone interview.

Many studies of large populations have shown that people who describe themselves as lonely or as having little social support are more likely to die prematurely and to have infections, high blood pressure, insomnia and cancer.

"There are two theories - the social provision theory, which basically is about what other people do for you in a tangible, material sense. Like, if I am sick and I have got people around me, they will take me to the doctors, they will see I take my pills," Cole said. "The other is that there is something about being isolated and lonely that changes your body."
So, to sum up, if you aren't happy, are lonely and don't have any friends, you will also most likely get sick and die soon from the terrible genetic changes this social isolation causes you. And although the study didn't address it, doesn't it sort of imply that that taking anti-depressants for social anxiety could literally save your life? (Yea, we're talking to you, Tom Cruise.)

We're doctors or anything, but the prescription seems clear: Get out and have some fun this weekend or face the consequences!