Scientists Discover Unlikely Cause of Loneliness

Dear Living Well Daily Reader,

Ever sat at home alone on Saturday night?

Or sat in a crowded restaurant surrounded by people laughing, drinking and socializing yet felt like you’re totally alone? Like you’re an island in a sea of people?

Then you may know the sadness, depression, isolation and even anger that you feel as the empty, lonely hours go by.

In fact, the deep, longing pain of loneliness is so powerful and takes such a toll on your health that it’s a better predictor of early death than obesity.

And while there are some folks who argue spending a weekend night in your own company sounds like a dream come true, everyone has experienced the all-consuming darkness that is being lonely during their life.

And recently, researchers have found that being lonely takes on many different definitions for those who experience this drab feeling.

You see, some folks feel lonely only when they are actually alone, while others can feel isolated when they’re in a crowd of people or even in the company of friends and family. Additionally, this feeling of loneliness can be permanent for some folks.

According to new research from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, these endless pangs for human contact could be linked to a factor beyond our social circle — our genetics.

--Wired for Sadness

Using information from a longitudinal study on health, aging and retirement called the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers collected the genetic data on over 10,700 Americans. All participants were age 50 or older and answered three questions designed to reliably measure loneliness, though none of the questions actually used the word “lonely,” since people aren’t always keen on admitting they feel this way.

The questions were:

  • How often do you feel that you lack companionship?
  • How often do you feel isolated from others?
  • How often do you feel left out?

At the conclusion of the study, the scientists found that experiencing lifetime loneliness (versus experiencing occasionally loneliness due to circumstances) is 14–27 percent genetic, making it a modestly heritable trait.

The scientists also concluded that loneliness is usually inherited alongside neuroticism, a trait that causes long-term negative feelings and depression.

A team led by Dr. Abraham Palmer Ph.D., vice chair for basic research at UC, San Diego School of Medicine and lead researcher for the study, is currently trying to decipher specific genetic variations that contribute to the heredity of loneliness. These findings help us further understand the how genes influence our feelings.

That said, whether you’re genetically wired to be lonely or not, there are things you can do to get out in the world and establish connections.

Volunteer at a local hospital, join a gardening club or reconnect with an old friend or neighbor — it might just build a bridge to your island.

Live well,

Natalie Moore
Managing editor, Living Well Daily


Sources

[1] Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review.

Natalie Moore

Written By Natalie Moore

Natalie Moore is a dedicated health researcher with a passion for finding healthy, natural, and science-based solutions. After a decade of direct healthcare experience in western and natural medicine, she was involved in public health research before joining Living Well Daily.

View More Free Articles

Stamped envelopes.

Mailbag! 10 Tips to Conquer Spinal Arthritis

I have arthritis in my spine. What would you suggest to help manage it? –George from Cedar Rapids, IA George, Believe it or not, many people learn that they have spinal arthritis as they age. It’s very common. There’s a lot you can do to help keep it from advancing or even reverse some of...

Read This

Calm Anxiety WITHOUT Drugs (Easy!)

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, There is a plague of anxiety sweeping the nation. And who could blame us? Anyone with half a brain SHOULD feel anxious about the state of the world. But like any other epidemic, just because something is going around doesn’t mean you should accept it. More importantly, having anxiety does...

Read This

“Food Reboot” HALTS Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, If you or someone you love suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), you already know how the disease can turn your life upside down. The stiffness and mobility problems slowly strip away your independence… and leave you in pain. Talk to your mainstream doc and he’ll just shrug their shoulders –...

Read This

[Men] Do You Have the Breast Cancer Gene?

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, If you’re a woman, chances are you have heard about the BRCA gene (BReast CAncer gene). Scientists have known for a long time that a mutation in one of two breast cancer genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2, increases the risk of getting breast cancer. But, men, listen up – just because...

Read This

Greek Plant Extract SOOTHES Joint Pain

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, Some people might shrug when you tell them you have knee pain… but that’s only if they haven’t experienced firsthand. Chronic pain from osteoarthritis is no joke— it can destroy your life. Joint pain makes moving incredibly difficult and can keep you from doing the things you love. Before you know it,...

Read This

Deadly Disease 8 TIMES More Likely for Crohn’s Patients

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, Inflammation is supposed to be a normal response for your body. It’s one of the key defenses protecting you. Inflammation can sometimes be our friend… when it helps fight off infections and clears away debris, that is. The problems start when inflammation blazes out of control or lasts longer than...

Read This

Stamped envelopes.

Mailbag! 5 Ways to Soothe Your Psoriasis

I have psoriasis, and I was wondering what supplements or natural treatments there are out there. –Bill from Riverside, CA Bill, As you probably know, psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease where the body attacks the skin as if it were a foreign invader. Psoriasis affects about two percent of the U.S. population. Normal, healthy...

Read This

Coffee Compound LOWERS Cholesterol

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, I’m on a personal mission to rescue coffee from the hands of the nutritional puritans who think that anything fun is not good for you. Despite what the mainstream would have you believe, the news on coffee has improved in recent years. Researchers have pinpointed many powerful plant nutrients, like...

Read This

“Citric Element” Whips Your Brain into Shape!

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, Some suggest pretty complicated ways to keep your brain healthy as you age. Going back to college… doing complicated puzzles… taking what feels like 30 bottles of pills a day… It can make you feel like giving up before you’ve even started! But what if there was something MUCH easier...

Read This

100-Year-Old Trick STOPS Arthritis Pain

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, If you’re tired constantly refilling pain prescriptions, you’re not alone. And if you’re even MORE tired of the side effects that come with them, who could blame you? For far too long, Big Pharma has held arthritis patients hostage… promising relief while they rob you blind. It’s time for something...

Read This