The psychological factor that affects colds.
People who have strong social networks have less severe colds than those who are lonely, new research finds.
Lonely people, though, were no more or less likely to get a cold than socially connected people.
Loneliness has already been linked to other physical problems, said Ms Angie LeRoy, the study’s first author:
“Loneliness puts people at risk for premature mortality and all kinds of other physical illnesses.
Previous research has shown that different psycho-social factors like feeling rejected or feeling left out or not having strong social bonds with other people do make people feel worse physically, mentally and emotionally.”
The study involved giving colds to healthy people who were isolated in a hotel for five days.
The results showed that lonely and socially well-connected people both contracted the colds at the same rate.
However, lonely people got more severe colds.
The research also revealed that it wasn’t about the size of people’s social networks, but their quality.
In other words, a few good friends are better than lots of acquaintances.
Dr Chris Fagundes, study co-author, said:
“Anytime you have an illness, it’s a stressor, and this phenomenon would probably occur.
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.
Doctors should take psychological factors into account at intake on a regular basis.
It would definitely help them understand the phenomenon when the person comes in sick.”
Ms LeRoy concluded:
“If you build those networks — consistently working on them and your relationships — when you do fall ill, it may not feel so bad.”
The study was published in the journal Health Psychology (LeRoy et al., 2017).