Chronically lonely people are at higher risk for certain types of inflammatory diseases, says a study. Feelings of social isolation in lonely people triggers the activity of pro-inflammatory immune cells.
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers analyzed 93 older adults for the study.
They screened for gene function among different types of immune cells and found that genes originating from two particular cell types - plasmacytoid dendritic cells and monocytes - were over expressed in chronically lonely individuals, compared with the remainder of the sample.
These cell types produce an inflammatory response to tissue damage, and are part of the immune system's first line of defense, which produces an immediate inflammatory response to tissue damage.
It's this same inflammatory response that, over the long-term, can promote cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegeneration.
The finding appears in the Feb. 7-11 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.