A recent study led by a team of US researchers and college professors recently linked feelings of loneliness to, of all things, more severe symptoms of the common cold. That's right, if you're lonely, you might suffer more from cold than a happier person. But does this mean that loneliness can make you physically unhealthy? Does loneliness make colds actually worse, or just feel worse? And how do we use this information to better our lives?
Asking questions like this is how we can find paths to the healthiest versions of ourselves and lead longer, happier lives. Such meditations are the subject of our show Change The Day You Die. On the show, people leading extremely unhealthy lives are forced to examine their lifestyles—from diet, exercise habits, and social lives—to chart a course aimed at ultimately extending their lives. See a sneak peek of the show here, and find out where you can tune in.
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Here's What Happened During This Study Of The Common Cold:
This study was spearheaded by Angie LeRoy, an author and Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Houston. She and fellow academics recruited 213 participants between ages 18-55, had them fill out questionnaires about their social lives, and then administered them the common cold virus via nasal drops.
159 of the paid participants contracted the cold, and then they were kept in quarantine, where the researchers studied the severity of their symptoms. In the end, they found that the lonelier, the more severe.
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Bottom Line, If You're Experiencing Loneliness, Your Cold Symptoms May Be More Severe.
First off, nothing about this popular new study published in Health Psychology says that lonely people face grave dangers when they get a cold. The Guardian even said, “[The study] found while loneliness does not appear to have any impact on an individual’s chance of falling ill with a cold, or the actual severity of the symptoms, it does seem to be linked to feeling more under the weather.”
So, lonely people are facing a harder time. It also makes recovery more difficult, as lonely people often have poorer sleep, and less motivation to take meds and other steps towards getting healthier. Not to pack it on too heavy, but loneliness has been linked to a number of other health problems, including heart disease.
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Here's How To Use These Findings To Your Advantage:
So, while nothing to freak out about right this second, this study does promote the idea that we should seek out company for the benefit of both our mental and physical selves. Luckily, the steps you can take to improve your physical life can also create meaningful relationships. Take up a yoga class, and ask someone you meet there out for coffee. Join a local gym, and make an effort to be a friendly, collaborative personality there. Or join a community garden, and start planting yourself organic vegetables, trading gardening tips with fellow community members.
And think of this as one more reason that having friends, lovers, and a close family simply makes everything better ... including that cold you've caught.