SEOUL, Nov.26 (Korea Bizwire) – Research indicates that the reason loneliness has a bad influence on health is because it evokes change in the immune system.
Medical News Today reported that psychology Professor John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago announced the results of a study indicating that loneliness changes the gene expression of white blood cells, exposing a lonely person to infections.
The results were discovered after analyzing the gene expressions of 141 adults (ages between 50 and 68) who are participating in the ‘Chicago Health, Aging and Social Relationship Research’.
Compared to those who were not lonely, lonely people showed an increased gene expression of ‘conserved transcriptional response to adversity’ (CTRA).
CTRA increases the gene expression of the genes that respond to infections, and decreases the gene expression of anti-virus reactions.
Loneliness gives at least a year’s notice of the CTRA gene expression, and in reverse, the CTRA gene expression gives a year’s notice of loneliness.
In an interpretation of the results, Professor Cacioppo said that loneliness and CTRA gene expression have negative effects on each other as time passes.
Loneliness is also known to increase the secretion of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter in charge of the fight-or-flight response.
Professor Cacioppo explains that norepinephrine stimulates bone marrow stem cells, increasing monocytes (a type of immune cell), and causing inflammation within the body.
Fight-or-flight response is a state which the body selects to fight or run away in a tense situation. Elevation in heart rates and breathing, a decrease in stomach and intestine movement, contraction of blood vessels, muscular expansion, flaccid bladder and erection failure are all caused by the response.
Professor Cacioppo also announced the results of a study conducted last year indicating that elderly individuals who are lonely have a 14 percent higher chance of dying early compared to the elderly who aren’t.
The results of the study were published in the latest issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Science.
By Francine Jung (Francine.firstname.lastname@example.org)