01/21/2013 11:09 EST

Loneliness Bad For Health: Condition May Harm Immune System, Study Shows


Lonely, isolated, disconnected ... unhealthy? It turns out, feeling lonely might not just be emotionally difficult — it could also harm your immune system, according to a new study.

The research, presented at annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, showed lonely people are more likely to have latent viruses reactivate, according to Live Science. It also showed lonely people, when stressed out, are more likely to produce inflammatory compounds. Researchers conducted the study with 200 female breast cancer survivors and 134 middle-aged, overweight people with no serious health problems.

Scientists have investigated the relationship between loneliness and health in several studies in the past. Previously, it has been linked to higher blood pressure in older people (which contributes to heart attacks and strokes), poor sleep, and even Alzheimer's in old age.

And with new findings that more people are living alone than ever before, this research is particularly poignant. Different cities around the globe are creating programs like communal residences to best serve this new demographic, according to the Globe and Mail.

But surrounding yourself with new friends isn't necessarily the cure to loneliness, according to psychologist Louise Hawkley.

"Loneliness is not what people typically think it is. It's not being alone. People can be alone and not be lonely. People can be surrounded by other people and yet feel lonely," she said.

If you're feeling isolated, try improving your social skills, asking for professional help or counselling, or looking for opportunities to meet new people, suggests Heidi Grant Halvorson, a psychologist and HuffPost blogger. Also, try to think positively and not anticipate rejection, she said.

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