News FocusSocial Neuroscience

Why Loneliness Is Hazardous to Your Health

Science  14 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6014, pp. 138-140
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6014.138

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In a steady stream of recent papers, social psychologists have identified several potentially unhealthy changes in the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems of chronically lonely people. The findings could help explain why epidemiological studies have often found that socially isolated people have shorter life spans and increased risk of a host of health problems, including infections, heart disease, and depression. The work also adds a new wrinkle, suggesting that it's the subjective experience of loneliness that's harmful, not the actual number of social contacts a person has. An impressive network of collaborations with researchers in other disciplines is now pioneering a new science of loneliness.