Not that we didn’t know, but humans are not capable of dealing with loneliness, we are social beings and we need the company of each other. A study performed by researchers, including psychologist and loneliness expert John Cacioppo from University of Chicago, proved that loneliness triggers some psychological, but also biological responses that lead to sickness.
A previous study made by this team found a link between loneliness and an abnormal response of genes, which showed increased expression in inflammation, but decreased expression in antiviral responses. The past study and the one made recently, involved both human and primates as test subjects and found that subjects that felt a deep feeling of loneliness were ultimately more susceptible to inflammation, while their immune systems were less responsive.
Their new study focused on a fight-or-flight stress signal produced by the feeling of loneliness which can increase or decrease the production on white blood cells. They’ve found the same effect as in their previous study, that loneliness causes an increased gene expression for inflammation while the gene expression for the immunes system’s fight against antiviral infections is decreased. But they have also found that the link between loneliness and gene expression is reciprocal. Loneliness can predict this effect, but also people who showed this modification of gene expression without feeling lonely, had a tendency of feeling loneliness in the months that followed.
Now, they are trying to find out if there is a way of changing this effects with some particular drugs, but only the link between loneliness and a poorly controlled immune response was proven. All in all, these modifications of immune and inflammatory response, lead to diseases or hard to treat sicknesses increases the chances of premature death by 14% in adults who experience loneliness on a daily basis.