View Full Version : Feeling lonely? Chances are you're not alone.

12-01-2009, 11:59 AM
Feeling lonely? Chances are you're not alone.
Loneliness is transmittable, researchers say

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Loneliness is like a disease -- and what's worse, it's contagious.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, loneliness can spread from one person to another, according to research being released Tuesday that underscores the power of one person's emotions to affect friends, family and neighbors.

The federally funded analysis of data collected from more than 4,000 people over 10 years found that lonely people increase the chances that someone they know will start to feel alone, and that the solitary feeling can spread one more degree of separation, causing a friend of a friend or even the sibling of a friend to feel desolate.

"Loneliness can be transmitted," said John T. Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychologist who led the study being published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. "Loneliness is not just the property of an individual. It can be transmitted across people -- even people you don't have direct contact with."

Moreover, people who become lonely eventually move to the periphery of their social networks, becoming increasingly isolated, which can exacerbate their loneliness and affect social connectedness, the researchers found.

"No man is an island," said Nicholas A. Christakis, a professor of medicine and medical sociology at Harvard Medical School who helped conduct the research. "Something so personal as a person's emotions can have a collective existence and affect the vast fabric of humanity."


But some researchers expressed skepticism about the findings, saying the study had the same shortcoming as the earlier work and could not necessarily rule out other explanations for the apparent association.

"It is unclear whether their statistical model will 'find' social contagion in every outcome they examine because of the limitations," Jason M. Fletcher of Yale University wrote in an e-mail. He and a colleague conducted a similar analysis using data from a large federal survey to show that acne, headaches and even height could appear to be spread through social networks if not analyzed properly.

I'm guessing this is B.S. Lonely people tend to maximize any interaction they have access to, no matter how trivial (letter carriers are a lifeline for more people than we know). Some people are simply antisocial or they have never learned any good social skills and so they alienate those around them. They may be lonely but their big problem isn't attachment, it's social skills. Other people are introverts and they have few attachments but they don't desire more.

These are all separate issues. Introversion isn't "catching" - you're born that way or not. Poor social skills aren't contagious among adults (though they might be in kids). Genuine loneliness might make others feel guilty but not lonely.

WaPo (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/30/AR2009113003846_2.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2009120100263)

ralph wiggum
12-01-2009, 12:32 PM
...The federally funded analysis...