You might say you’re ‘just not a people person’ but companionship has always been good for humans, and not just where our mental health is concerned but our physical health too. A new study suggests that prolonged loneliness is something we should strive to avoid, given that it allegedly increases the risk of premature death in adults by 14%.
Again, the link between the mind and body is reinforced; as per this study supported by the National Institute of Health in the US, social isolation correlated strongly with both repressed immune systems and increased cellular inflammation. This was observed in a study that examined 141 adults. Explained by Forbes, this physical manifestation of loneliness affects the expression of genes through a phenomenon the known as “conserved transcriptional response to adversity,” or CTRA. And we don’t have to be scientists to recognise when things like sadness, bouts of depression, stress and more affect our bodies; the body speaks the mind.
Worryingly, the longer somebody endures a period of loneliness, the greater influence this CTRA has on genes that affect white blood cells. “CTRA decreases the genetic expression of white blood cells while simultaneously increasing the genetic expression of inflammation. Inflammation refers to damage at the cellular level rather than the swelling that accompanies an injury; the injury, in this case, is happening within the body’s cells.”
In less scientific terms, loneliness has the potential to weaken our immune systems, making us more susceptible to infections while at the same time our cellular health is slowly weakened over time. In a word, bleak. The human tendency to bond with others is an innate one, so perhaps, if we go against the most basic characteristics of human life, we run the risk of experiencing such physiological effects. It makes sense.
While time alone certainly has its merits, and we all need to turn inwards from time to time, for the sake of your physical health in later years – and your mental health now – make sure to forge meaningful relationships and surround yourself with a few good humans. Pets work too.