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Loneliness worsens cold

Samantha Boh | New Delhi |

If you are lonely, symptoms of the common cold may be more pronounced, according to researchers at Rice University, Texas, US. A study led by Rice University psychologist Chris Fagundes and graduate student Angie LeRoy indicated lonely people are more prone to report that their cold symptoms are more severe than those who have stronger social networks. A paper on the study was published in Health Psychology.

A total of 159 people aged 18 to 55 were assessed for their psychological and physical health, given cold-inducing nasal drops and quarantined for five days in hotel rooms.

The participants, scored in advance on the Short Loneliness Scale and the Social Network Index, were monitored during and after the fiveday stay. After adjusting for demographics like gender and age, the season, depressive effect and social isolation, the results showed those who were screened in advance for their level of loneliness and became infected reported a greater severity of symptoms than those recorded in previous studies used as controls. The size of the participants’ social networks appeared to have no bearing on how sick they felt.

The effect may be the same for those under other kinds of stress, Dr Fagundes said in a statement by the university. “Any time you have an illness, it’s a stressor, and this phenomenon would probably occur,” he said, “A predisposition, whether it’s physical or mental, can be exaggerated by a subsequent stressor. In this case, the subsequent stressor is getting sick, but it could be the loss of a loved one, or getting breast cancer, which are subjects we also study.”

The Straits Times