Loneliness May Make You Sick, Fat and Depressed
"A new study has found that persons deemed to be wiser are less prone to feel lonely while those who are lonelier also tend to be less wise," says newswise.com. But that's not the biggest hit. If you feel lonely, you might also be feeling nauseous, and depressed, as well.
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine take the connection between wisdom, loneliness and biology further, "reporting that wisdom and loneliness appear to influence — and/or be influenced by — microbial diversity of the gut," in a new study, according to the web site.
What does this mean, exactly? Newswise.com points out, "Researchers have known for a while about the “gut-brain axis,” which is a complex network that links intestinal function to the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain."
Newswise explains that this two-way communication system is regulated by neural activity, hormones and the immune system; alterations can result in disruptions to stress response and behaviors, say the authors, from emotional arousal to higher-order cognitive abilities, such as decision-making.
And you might be depressed, too.
In the past, research has shown that gut microbiota is associated with mental health disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as personality and psychological traits regarded as key, biologically based components of wisdom. "Recent research has connected the gut microbiome to social behavior, including findings that people with larger social networks tend to have more diverse gut microbiotas," newswise quotes the authors.
"We found that lower levels of loneliness and higher levels of wisdom, compassion, social support and engagement were associated with greater phylogenetic richness and diversity of the gut microbiome,” says first author Tanya T. Nguyen, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine, at the web site.
The authors add that the exact mechanisms that may link loneliness, compassion and wisdom with gut microbial diversity are not known, but observed that "reduced microbial diversity typically represents worse physical and mental health, and is associated with a variety of diseases, including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and major depressive disorder," according to newswise.com.
“It is possible that loneliness may result in decreased stability of the gut microbiome and, consequently, reduced resistance and resilience to stress-related disruptions, leading to downstream physiological effects, such as systemic inflammation,” the authors wrote.
And inflammation can lead to many deleterious effects, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer.
So try to keep up your social network, call a friend when you're feeling lonely, or have a big party. Just kidding.