Study Loneliness Can Be Contagious

12.02.09 |

Sanitizers and covering up a sneeze won't work in combatting the spread of the common malady known as loneliness. Researchers at the University of Chicago, Harvard and the University of California-San Diego say just like colds and flu, loneliness can be contagious. One scientist involved in the study describes its spread as being similar to "a yarn that comes loose at the end of a crocheted sweater." The data, published in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology," revealed lonely people are inclined to share their loneliness with others. However, the lonely group tends to become even more disconnected, severing ties with the few friends they have.

 The study also showed that women were more likely than men to report "catching" feelings of loneliness. It has been found to occur more frequently when changes occur in networks of friends rather than that in family networks. Researchers say it is important to recognize the signals of loneliness and to help those mired in the feeling to reconnect. Along with the psychological ramifications of loneliness, it can lead to physical problems that can possibly shorten lifespans.