Navigation Links
Loneliness May Be Catching
Date:12/1/2009

Study suggests that 'less affirming,' isolating behaviors jump from friend to friend

TUESDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that lonely people attract fellow "lonelies" and influence others to feel lonely, too.

"Loneliness can spread from person to person to person -- up to three degrees of separation," said James H. Fowler, co-author of the study published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.

"What this means is that if I don't know anything about you, but I know your friend's friend is lonely, then I can do better than chance at predicting whether or not you will be lonely," he said.

Indeed, the study suggests that not only is loneliness contagious, but lonely people tend to isolate themselves in small groups that somehow compound or increase those feelings of solitude.

According to Fowler, the data suggests that the average person feels lonely about 48 days a year, but for the lonely, that feeling can be ever-present. In addition, the study indicated that people who felt lonely were more likely to be friendless, or constantly shedding friends, a few years later: Compared with those who are never lonely, lonely people can lose about 8 percent of their friends over a four-year period, for instance.

Fowler co-authored the findings, funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, with John T. Cacioppo, professor at the University of Chicago, and Nicholas A. Christakis, professor at Harvard University. The researchers worked with more than 5,100 participants who were the offspring of the original subjects of the landmark Framingham Heart Study.

The team constructed graphs tracking the participants' ongoing friendship patterns over two to four years. They found that, among neighbors, an increase of loneliness of just one day per week triggered a rise in loneliness among neighbor-friends, as well. And that loneliness actually spread throughout the community as affected neighbors saw each other less, the researchers said.

Women appeared more vulnerable than men to "catching" loneliness, the researchers found.

Mark R. Leary, professor and director of the social psychology program at Duke University, whose work zeroes in on the need for social acceptance, called the study impressive in its sample, analysis and conclusion. He added that the contagion of loneliness could be, to some degree, a situation of people mimicking the styles of those around them.

"Non-lonely people who are exposed to lonely people may make others in their network a little more lonely by behaving in these less-affirming ways. Perhaps this is why the effect of loneliness can be seen at three degrees of separation. My friend has a lonely friend, so my friend starts acting less affirming overall, which makes me act a little less positively, which then affects my other friends."

So what can be done to help the lonely, to integrate them better with others? Leary suggested that those who interact with lonely people recognize that their tendency to pull inward emotionally and be less outgoing is a trait of loneliness, not of something else. "It reflects loneliness and a need for connection, rather than indifference, dislike or rejection. People can reach out to their lonely loved one rather than withdraw themselves," he said.

Fowler agreed. "For the mental health provider, this means treating not just the patient, but potentially also the patient's friends," he said. "For the employer, this means emphasizing activities that help their employees to connect to one another socially. For the family member, this means you should tend to your own networks, too, while you help your kin feel more connected."

More information

For more on emotional health, head to the American Academy of Family Physicians.



SOURCES: James H. Fowler, Ph.D., professor, political science, University of California, San Diego; Mark R. Leary, Ph.D., professor, psychology and neuroscience, and director, social psychology program, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; December 2009, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology


'/>"/>
Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. Loneliness is bad for your health
2. The politics of the playground: lack of athletic skill often means loneliness and peer rejection
3. Faux Fido eases loneliness in nursing home residents as well as real dog, SLU study finds
4. Holiday Survival Tips: Mitigate Loneliness by Becoming Your Own Holiday Date
5. Few friends combined with loneliness linked to poor mental and physical health for elderly
6. Overweight kids experience more loneliness, anxiety, MU study finds
7. Lack of Social Interaction Affects Health Outcomes of Breast Cancer --Stress from loneliness leads to increased tumor growth, Decrease breast cancer risk by increasing social interaction
8. New survey: Flu Shot Still not Catching on, Especially at Retail Clinics
9. Catching Ovarian Cancer Early May Miss Aggressive Tumors
10. Ovarian cancer screening not catching early disease
11. Colonoscopy Beats Camera Pill at Catching Colon Cancer
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:10/13/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2017 , ... Apple ... care services, staged a mock evacuation of the facility as part of a disaster ... Fire Department, Echo Hose EMS and Shelton City Emergency Manager, as well as the ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... , ... October 13, 2017 , ... Global Healthcare Management’s ... Alexandria Park in Milford, NJ. This free event, sponsored by Global Healthcare Management’s ... The fun run is geared towards children of all ages; it is a ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... “The Journey: From the ... danger possible to save lost souls in the Philippines. “The Journey: From the Mountains ... a dedicated teacher of the Bible. She has taught all ages and currently teaches ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Planet Fitness, one of the largest and ... plans to open a flagship location in Covington, LA at 401 N. U.S. Highway ... store next to Office Depot in the Holiday Square shopping center. Its location allows ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Asante, a nationally recognized health system in ... existing home health joint venture through an agreement, effective October 1, 2017, to ... home health company with Asante, delivering clinically integrated care, for the past eight ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... -- NDS received FDA 510(k) clearance in May 2017 for its highly ... designed for endoscopy environments. An innovative secondary monitor solution, ZeroWire ... support the improvement of patient outcomes, procedural efficiency, and the lowering ... ... ...
(Date:10/4/2017)... 4, 2017  South Korean-based healthcare product Development Company ... "cprCUBE" on Kickstarter. The device will educate the user ... with better efficiency compared to the dated and pricey ... on efficacy of the compression for a more informed ... goal to raise $5,000. ...
(Date:10/2/2017)... 2017  Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: ... third quarter of 2017 on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. ... day with the investment community and media to further ... call will begin at 9 a.m. Eastern time. Investors, ... webcast of the conference call through a link that ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: