Does Loneliness Make You Sick?
A study recently came out headed by Steven Cole, an associate professor of medicine in the division of Hematology-Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology that uses science to describe why loneliness may be bad for your health. As it turns out, chronic loneliness puts us at risk for illnesses connected to chronic inflammation like heart disease and certain forms of cancer. How is this possible?
The way this is explained is that people who suffer from chronic loneliness are actually alone more often so the genes that usually guard against viral infections are less active because there is not as much exposure to other people for the viruses to get passed to them. However, the genes that protect against bacteria are more active creating more inflammation.
The truth is, I’m not a molecular scientist, but I find it fascinating that there is an increasing amount of people trying to get to the bottom of loneliness and how we can find ways to curb the adverse health effects of social isolation.
In a way, I kind of see that as a band aid for the greater social dilemma.
This work was recently covered in the Economist where they write, “The lonely are better off ramping up their protection against bacterial infection, which is a bigger relative risk to them.”
How about saying, the lonely are better off ramping up their social resources and connections so that the gene expression changes.
The problem in our current society today is we’ve relegated people to categories or status updates. We no longer see the person who is there as someone who shares the same basic wants and needs as us as human beings, but instead treat them like objects, beeping, swearing, ignoring, or just trying to move past them.
How about creating a greater awareness around the reality of our shared connection as human beings. Might that create some empathy and compassion for the lonely and change the way people reach out?
There is a famous formula that says thoughts create actions and actions create consequences.
If the thought is this person is just a checkout clerk, a bum, a doctor, an elderly person, a teenager or any other category, it’s hard to “see the person.”
What if we changed our thoughts and began to see others as similar to us, wanting to belong, to be accepted, to be loved and understood.
What would change? Might the world be a less lonely place?
As always, please share your thoughts, storied and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
article needs more information - - Mar 2nd 2011
This article should have some advice for what to do about loneliness. It's not like readers who happen to be lonely already know how to go out and build a social life. That's why they are lonely in the first place. At least put a link to some practical advide.