Not life, but torture. Scientists have figured out how to kill loneliness
MOSCOW, 23 Aug — RIA Novosti, Alfia Enikeeva. A quarter of the adult population in developed countries feel alone. Social isolation and related stress is more dangerous to health than Smoking, alcohol and excess weight. What disease causes loneliness and why is it contagious — in the material RIA Novosti.
Upthe Genes of loneliness
In autumn 2004, nearly nine thousand twins living in Belgium and the Netherlands, received an email invitation to participate in ambitious scientific project. An international group of scientists, consisting of geneticists, biologists and psychologists, were going to find genes associated in humans with a tendency to loneliness, and to understand whether it is transmitted by inheritance.
The twins were an ideal object for study because they are copies of each other with the same genotype. Identical twins compared with fraternal (dz), that is, twins who have only half of the total genes. If the propensity to solitude at first higher than the second, it is possible to infer the influence of heredity.
After five years of work, scientists from Europe and the USA found that genetic factors for 37 percent make, people will seek the society of their own kind or not, but the “genes of solitude” identify failed. With this challenge in just six years, researchers at the University of Cambridge.
Analyzing data from nearly half a million people, they identified DNA segments that presumably determine how much people can not tolerate loneliness.
Thirteen genes were formed by people wanting to visit pubs and bars, six to go to the gym, and 18 — desire to join certain religious groups. Carriers of certain variants of these genes are poorly tolerated loneliness and suffered from the lack of company.
Mechanism of evolutionary adaptation
According to Professor University of Chicago John Cacioppo, a painful feeling of loneliness is a kind of adaptive mechanism developed in humans in the process of evolution. Being social animals, in prehistoric times people defended and got food together. The exclusion of the individual from the group was tantamount to a death sentence — people have died from hunger or predators.
Therefore, the feeling of loneliness that causes us to seek the company of similar, similar to, for example, the feeling of hunger, forcing the animal to go hunting.
Studying for several decades the people who have difficulties with socialization, Cacioppo found that most of the physiological disorders they are associated with the sympathetic nervous system, the same one that is responsible for the reaction of “freeze or flight” when meeting with a predator. Apparently, the human body finds a sense of loneliness, danger and considers it as a warning signal.
The discomfort experienced because of long loneliness, with a negative physiological response (shown that lonely older people are more susceptible to infectious diseases than their more sociable peers) was useful in prehistoric times when man had to survive among a hostile nature.
But in modern society no benefit from it, quite the contrary — loneliness can lead to premature death because of the constant internal stress.How to kill loneliness
Scientists from York and Newcastle universities found that loneliness and social exclusion by one third increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Analysis of 23 studies, which in total took part 180 of thousands of volunteers, showed that low level of social interaction increases the likelihood of attacks of coronary heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent.
People with little communication with friends and relatives and never married, the elderly more often suffer from dementia, say UK researchers.
Have confirmed bachelors, the risk of this disease after 65 years is 42 percent higher than those who were married or had a steady partner for several years.
In addition, the single 15 percent higher mortality rate from cancer. Probably triggers the same mechanism that the gray rat, — in animals, contained in individual cells without relatives, violated the development of a number of important hormones, resulting in cancerous tumors.
Elderly people living alone and not maintaining relations with friends and relatives die earlier because of loneliness and the related stress affect the immune system cells, according to U.S. doctors. The leukocytes in the blood of lonely more prone to inflammation and worse react to viruses. Moreover, this effect increases over time — the longer the isolation, the more pronounced these violations.
Scientists from Brigham young University predict that in the coming years, humanity will face a real epidemic of loneliness. And at-risk youth, for whom the probability of premature death from stress associated with social isolation, is much higher than for the elderly. The authors note that lonely themselves increasingly feel the people, living in families and having a lot of friends.