Loneliness Feeds Brain Triggers That Feed Loneliness
Can loneliness make you chemically impaired and more lonely? Genomic researcher and Professor of Medicine at UCLA's School of Medicine, Steve Cole, took samples of brain cells of lonely people and in each sample, the cell appeared to be in a state of high alert, as though it was fighting a bacterial infection. It was as though the subjects were under assault from the disease of loneliness. His work shows that the blood cells of lonely people are inflammatory, which can lead to illnesses such as impaired immune system, heart disease and Alzheimers.
According to studies at Stanford and Harvard Universities, the impact of people living in social isolation will add almost $7 Billion to the cost of Medicare. Their study and and others concluded that loneliness contributes to heart disease and other fatal conditions and this effect can be measured.
Another less charged word for loneliness could be described as not having a strong "social connection". With the advent of television and the internet, people are less connected than ever before. Julianne Holt-Lunstad did an astounding study that aggregated 70 studies on loneliness, which followed 3.4 million participants for an average of seven years and came to a startling conclusion; people who live alone will experience a 32% likelihood of an early death with 29% for those who are socially isolated and 26% for those who would describe themselves as very lonely.
Being with another person does not mean a person is not lonely. Some suggestions to reduce loneliness, whether living alone or with others, includes volunteering and engaging in activities which help others, diversifying your community of friends using Meet-Up or and other platforms and, most importantly, meditation because meditation teaches to one to quiet negative thinking and rest in one's own grounded awareness.
(Sources: AARP Magazine, Pg 50 and Plos Medicine, Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-Analytic Review by Julianna Holt-Lunstad)