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Cold symptoms feel worse when you’re lonely

04 April 2017

Already substantial evidence suggests that feeling lonely – regardless of whether we actually are socially isolated based on our number of relationships – is bad for our health, affecting our odds of developing heart disease and other chronic conditions.

A new study in Health Psychology extends this literature by showing that feelings of loneliness, but not levels of social isolation, seem to increase the toll of acute illness, in this case by worsening the subjective experience of having a cold.

The researchers, led by Angie LeRoy at the University of Houston and Rice University, said their finding could be useful for helping doctors’ understand their patients’ different experiences of short-term illnesses.

It also provides yet more evidence for why interventions aimed at reducing loneliness need to focus on quality not quantity of social interaction – after all, it’s perfectly possible to feel intensely alone in a crowded room. 

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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