Loneliness triggers cellular changes that can cause illness, study shows https://t.co/pMsK7Svmpw pic.twitter.com/IukRypI3pJ
— PsyPost.org (@PsyPost) November 24, 2015
Previous research from this group had identified a link between loneliness and a phenomenon they called “conserved transcriptional response to adversity” or CTRA. This response is characterized by an increased expression of genes involved in inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral responses. Essentially, lonely people had a less effective immune response and more inflammation than non-lonely people.
For the current study, the team examined gene expression in leukocytes, cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against bacteria and viruses.
As expected, the leukocytes of lonely humans and macaques showed the effects of CTRA–an increased expression of genes involved in inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral responses. But the study also revealed several important new pieces of information about loneliness’ effect on the body.