This is from yesterday’s i newspaper:
“Loneliness weakens he immune system, according to a study that could help to explain why lonely people are 14% more likely to suffer an early death.
Scientists have fount that the white blood cells of people who feel lonely are geared more towards causing inflammation than fighting infections.
Researchers have known for many years that people who perceive themselves to be lonely are at greater risk of becoming ill and dying prematurely, but the causes had remained illusive.
The find was made by a team of scientists led by Steven Cole, of the University of California, Los Angeles, and John Capitanio, of he California National Primate Research Centre at the University of California, Davis, who studied the white blood cells or leucocytes of both humans and macaque monkeys, a highly social primate species.
In the case of the macaques, the scientists found they could induce changes to the way the genes of the leucocytes are turned on or off by causing them to be isolated from their peers. Lonely monkeys showed an increased activity of genes involved in causing inflammation and a decreased activity of those involved in fighting infections.
The scientists found that one of the impacts of loneliness was an increase n a type of white blood cell called the monocytes which are involved more with inflammatory immune responses than fighting viruses. They believe that the resulting increase in the number of monocytes may both propagate loneliness and contribute to its associated health risks. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ”
I find this intriguing, but limited. Humans can be lonely for lots of reasons, some of which involve choice, so parallels with monkeys is limited here. Not all humans are sociable, so another problem. There is a huge gap between lonely and alone.
In terms of health, being alone can involve a lot of factors, one of which can be income. It can also depend on food: a lot of people who live alone can’t be bothered cooking for themselves, so may not eat as well as more socialising people. On the other side, social people may be out and about so much they live on takeaways, so their diet is affected. Solitary people may not be getting as much exercise, which can also effect health. Were factors such as the ownership of pets included? Especially those who own dogs which forces them out to exercise more.
And exposure to viruses is also a factor. Still, an intriguing piece of research.