Loneliness Alters Genes Related to Immunity
Prior research has shown being lonely means an increased risk for health problems such as Alzheimer's and heart disease. Now a new study shows social isolation actually causes changes in genes related to inflammation and immune system activity.
Dr. Steven Cole and his colleagues at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Chicago charted the activity of all know human genes in white blood cells to determine differences in genetic makeup of 11 female and three male participants from the Chicago Health, Aging and Relations Study. All participants had been assessed using the UCLA Loneliness Scale with six scoring in the top 15% as "chronically lonely." while eight scored in the bottom 15%. This level of loneliness had remained stable for three or more years.
The researchers found "209 indicators of cell health were differentially expressed between (the control and study groups) 78 being overexpressed and 131 underexpressed." In other words, there were 209 ways in which the cells differed between the two groups, with 78 indicators showing increased molecular change and 131 showing decreased molecular change that could cause potentially damaging health problems.
The cell areas most likely to cause future problems were those regulating immunity and inflammation. Immunity was suppressed in subjects showing higher levels of loneliness and inflammation was increased. Increased cellular inflammation has been linked to increased risk of coronary disease. These changes were considered to be statistically significant even after factoring in adjustments that needed to be made for demographic factors, medical conditions and psychological risk factors for disease such as stress. These effects were further found to be independent of the size of a person's social network, but rather were linked to the perceived closeness of relationships.
ABSTRACT: Social regulation of gene expression in human leukocytes
Posted In: Social Psychology |
Posted by FindCounseling.com Staff on September 25, 2007 at 09:25 AM | Permalink
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