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Loneliness & Health

March 2, 2009

How loneliness could make you sick.


The dangers of social isolation….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Social isolation doesn’t just lead to loneliness. It can have profoundly negative effects on our health as well. This according to psychologist John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago.

JOHN CACIOPPO (University of Chicago):
In conditions of loneliness, when you feel isolated, your brain is on alert for social threats.

As a result, lonely people release more stress hormones, don’t sleep as well, and may be more at risk for cardiovascular problems than non-lonely people. The findings suggest that loneliness could be as bad for you as smoking.

JOHN CACIOPPO (University of Chicago):
The epidemiological effects stunned everyone. No one expected those size effects.

He says loneliness evolved as a signal that social connections need to be repaired, by reaching out and developing quality connections with other people. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.