Loneliness is contagious

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Washington, Dec 1 (ANI): Just like a bad cold, loneliness can spread among groups of people, says a new study.

Researchers at the University of Chicago, the University of California-San Diego and Harvard used longitudinal data from a large-scale study that has been following health conditions for more than 60 years to reach the conclusion.

In the study, scholars found that lonely people tend to share their loneliness with others. Gradually over time, a group of lonely, disconnected people moves to the fringes of social networks.

"We detected an extraordinary pattern of contagion that leads people to be moved to the edge of the social network when they become lonely," said University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo, one member of the study team and one of the nation's leading scholars of loneliness.

"On the periphery people have fewer friends, yet their loneliness leads them to losing the few ties they have left," the expert added.

Before relationships are severed, people on the periphery transmit feelings of loneliness to their remaining friends, who also become lonely.

"These reinforcing effects mean that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a yarn that comes loose at the end of a crocheted sweater," said Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology.

Because loneliness is associated with a variety of mental and physical diseases that can shorten life, Cacioppo said it is important for people to recognize loneliness and help those people connect with their social group before the lonely individuals move to the edges.

The scholars' findings were published in the article, "Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network," published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (ANI)

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