Loneliness is bad for your health.
A new study from the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research says that people who are lonely get sick more often than people who are connected to family and friends.
According to the new report, loneliness can trigger several negative effects on the body like hardening arteries (higher blood pressure) and even memory loss. Study researcher Lisa Jaremka said that lonely people also tend to have a weaker immune system.
“It’s definitely indicating that the immune system is compromised in some way … It’s unable at that time, for whatever reason, in this case loneliness perhaps, to keep that virus under control.”
In one study, a group of blood cancer survivors were tested for the cytomegalovirus, a herpes virus. LiveScience reports that the virus can remain dormant for years and may not even show symptoms when active. The virus does cause the immune system to produce antibodies in order to kill the virus. Lonely people had higher the levels of cytomegalovirus antibodies in their blood which indicates higher levels of the active virus.
Last March, a similar study came out of UCLA that pointed to loneliness as one of the causes of a weak immune system.
John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago social psychologist, said that the immune system is divided into two parts: One that fights viruses and one that fights bacteria. Cacioppo says that the immune systems in lonely people have changed to focus more on bacteria threats rather than viral thrates, which makes them more vulnerable to diseases like cancer.
Jaremka said that the study shouldn’t be viewed as all doom and gloom. On the bright side, according to Jaremka, “people who feel socially connected are experiencing positive outcomes.”