Loneliness has long been a predictor of increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However an extremely interesting study conducted by the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology (the study of how our behaviours and cognition affects our hormonal systems), has shown even more dramatic findings. Feelings of loneliness have real, tangible and negative consequences on our health, but only if you’re a woman. (Insert sexual stereotypes about how men like to go off fishing by themselves and women love to gossip HERE) 

Saliva and blood samples were taken from 524 healthy middle-aged women and men at baseline, immediately after engaging in stressful tasks, and after 45 minutes after the stressful tasks were completed. The study found that the greater a person’s self-reported level of loneliness, the greater the person’s inflammatory markers (IL-6 p=0.044, IL-1Ra p=0.006, and MCP-1 p<0.001). Most striking is that these effects were only found in women, whereas there was no effect of loneliness on men. These results were independent of the person’s age, grade of employment, body mass index and smoking status. Quite literally, women who were lonely produced a greater amount of inflammatory markers that could lead to pain and chronic disease.

This leads to some interesting associations between the degree of loneliness with diseases such as Fibromyalgia which is comorbid with depression, anxiety and stress. Furthermore, fibromyalgia manifests 9 times as often in women as it does in men which is also consistent with the findings of this study. How you think and how you feel DOES have an effect on your body, always be aware and be HAPPY!

Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2012 Apr 11. PMID 22503139