Loneliness can be a killer

A new study from the United States’ National Institutes of Health shows that loneliness can increase the risk of premature death in older adults by as much as 14%, Forbes reports.


“The research team found that perceived social isolation—the ‘feeling of loneliness’—was strongly linked to two critical physiological responses in a group of 141 older adults: compromised immune systems and increased cellular inflammation.


Both outcomes are thought to hinge on how loneliness affects the expression of genes through a phenomenon the researchers call conserved transcriptional response to adversity, or CTRA.


The longer someone experiences loneliness, the greater the influence of CTRA on the expression of genes related to white blood cells (aka, leukocytes, the cells involved in protecting us against infections) and inflammation.


A lessened ability to fight infections along with a slow erosion of cellular health leaves the body open to a host of external and internal problems, some of which worsen over time with few distinct symptoms.”


The researchers said the results were specific to “perceived social isolation” and were unrelated to stress and depression.


Source: The Medical Journal of Australia, December 2015.

(Med J Aust 2015; 203 (11): 427-428 ) (doi: 10.5694/mja15.n1214)


14 December 2015.