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:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... today announced its strategic partnership with Connance, a healthcare industry leader providing ... companies’ proven, proprietary technology combine to provide health systems, hospitals and ambulatory ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... On June 10-11, 2016, ... the 2016 Cereal Festival and World’s Longest Breakfast Table in Battle Creek, MI, where ... city’s history as home to some of the world’s leading providers of cereal and ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... Many women are confused ... endometriosis. These women need a treatment plan to not only alleviate symptoms and ... help for preservation of fertility and ultimately achieving a pregnancy. The specialists at ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... 25, 2016 , ... "With 30 hand-drawn hand gesture animations, FCPX users can ... CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProHand Cartoon’s package transforms over 1,300 hand-drawn ... X . Simply select a ProHand generator and drag it above media or text ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... On Friday, June 10, Van Mitchell, ... at Work award to iHire in recognition of their exemplary accomplishments in worksite health ... annual Maryland Workplace Health & Wellness Symposium at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights. ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... Bracket , a leading clinical trial technology ... outcomes platform, Bracket eCOA (SM) 6.0, at the 52 ... 30, 2016 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania.  A ... product of its kind to fully integrate with RTSM, will ... 6.0 is a flexible platform for electronic clinical outcomes assessments ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... INDIANAPOLIS , June 23, 2016 ... Tomorrow,s Leaders Scholarship is any indication, the future is ... online at www.diabetesscholars.org by the Diabetes Scholars ... in the way of academic and community service excellence. ... program since 2012, and continues to advocate for people ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- Revolutionary technology includes multi-speaker listening to ... leaders in advanced audiology and hearing aid technology, has ... the world,s first internet connected hearing aid that opens ...      (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160622/382240 ) , ... firsts,: , TwinLink™ - the first dual ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: