Loneliness and the Common Cold

You know the symptoms….coughing, sneezing, a runny nose and you’re feeling run down. Yep, you probably have a nasty cold. But you might be surprised to learn what a new study suggests can make colds even worse – loneliness.

From National Public Radio (NPR):

Your sniffles may feel worse if you’re lonely.

A study published Thursday in Health Psychology found that among people who fell ill after being exposed to a cold virus, those who were lonely were more likely to report severe runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and other symptoms. That adds to the evidence linking loneliness to more serious health problems including heart disease and early death.

According to Time Magazine, “Everyone in the study had the same chance of getting sick, but people who reported feeling more lonely reported more severe cold symptoms than people who were less lonely. This was true regardless of how large or small a person’s social network was, suggesting that you don’t have to be physically isolated for loneliness to take a toll on health.”

Forbes.com quoted the study’s co-lead, Angie LeRoy as saying, “This paper is about the quality of your relationships, not the quantity,” LeRoy added, “You can be in a crowded room and feel lonely. That perception is what seems to be important when it comes to these cold symptoms.”

ABC News put together a short video on the study. You can watch it by clicking here or on the picture below.

This report comes out at a time when loneliness is grabbing more than a few headlines. Today.com recently ran a story titled – “The Biggest Health Threat Facing Middle-Aged Men is Loneliness.” Below is an excerpt from the story.

For middle-aged men, feeling lonely all the time can be as bad or worse for long-term health as heavy drinking or gaining too much weight. My friends and I just turned 40 within the past year and have lives variously consumed by careers, spouses and children, so we’re edging into that high-risk category.

“It’s a risk factor with consequences about the same size as obesity, and the prevalence is comparable,” John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychologist and co-author of the book “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection,” told TODAY.

Regular feelings of loneliness can increase mortality risk by 26 percent, according to a meta-analysis of studies, Cacioppo noted.

As the links between loneliness and poor mental and physical health continue to grow, the obvious question becomes – ok, so what can we do about it.  According to MedicalDaily.com:
The take-away from this study is the importance of building strong social ties in life, as these have far-stretching mental and physical benefits. For example, theses findings could also be used to describe how individuals react to life stressors other than illness such as illness or death of a close family member or friend.
Share your thoughts on the effects of loneliness on our overall health. And we’d love to hear if you have any specific ideas that you believe can help. Working with our partners to find innovative new ways to battle key health issues will help us take another step toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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