Article by home doctor townsville team
Psychologist Angie LeRoy explained, “Loneliness puts people at risk of premature mortality and all kinds of other physical illnesses. “But [specific research] had not been done to look at an acute but temporary illness that we’re all vulnerable to, like the common cold.”
How do experts describe loneliness?
Researchers argue that there is a distinction between feeling lonely, and measurable social isolation. “This [research] paper is about the quality of your relationships, not the quantity. It is possible that you may still feel lonely even a crowded room. That perception is what seems to be important when it comes to these cold symptoms.” LeRoy said.
Participant’s psychological and physical health were assessed and monitored over a 5 day period. This was the same period they were exposed to cold and flu viruses. The results showed that participants who scored higher for loneliness were more likely to have a cold.
“Previous research has shown that different psycho-social factors like feeling rejected or feeling left out or not having strong social bonds with other people do make people feel worse physically, mentally and emotionally,” LeRoy added.
Can feeling lonely influence other health conditions?
The Rice University states, feeling lonely could also impact a range of other health conditions. If people are feeling lonely or isolated there could be an increase feeling of stress. Lead researcher Chris Fagundes said loneliness should be considered by regular GPs:
“Doctors should take psychological factors into account,” Fagundes explained. “It would definitely help them understand the phenomenon when the person comes in sick.”
LeRoy added “We think this is important, particularly because of the economic burden associated with the common cold. Millions of people miss work each year because of it. And that has to do with how they feel, not necessarily with how much they’re blowing their noses.”
Can medical professionals help people who feel lonely?
Health professionals can encourage their patients and communities to become more socially active. LeRoy concluded: “If you build those networks — consistently working on them and your relationships — when you do fall ill, it may not feel so bad.”