Is there a link between loneliness and Inflammation?


Can loneliness make your immune system increase circulating levels of inflammatory markers? Previous research has indicated that social isolation is associated with greater levels of immune markers in adults. While these studies have found these correlations, it was never clear whether the association between loneliness and inflammatory markers were confounded by other variables, such as other health issues.

New research published in PLOS One attempted to bridge the gap between the social and the biological by studying the relationship between loneliness and circulating levels of fibrinogen and C-reactive protein (CRP). To do so, they asked their research population of healthy, middle-aged adults to self-report levels of loneliness, and measured the circulating levels of fibrinogen and CRP.

When adjusting for the demographic and health characteristics of their study population, they found no relationship between self-reported levels of loneliness and CRP. However, loneliness was inversely associated with fibrinogen levels, but not significantly so. Overall, this research indicates that loneliness is in fact, not positively associated with fibrinogen or C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in healthy, middle-aged adults.

While we now know that loneliness isn’t connected to fibrinogen and CRP levels, a number of studies have shown that social isolation does in fact lead to other health issues. While your immune system may be in good shape, it’s important to stay connected for aspects of your health.

Mezuk, B et al, 2016. Loneliness, Depression, and Inflammation: Evidence from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. PLOS.

International Union of Immunological SocietiesUniversity of South AfricaInstitute of Infectious Disease and Molecular MedicineScience Education PrizesElizabeth Glazer Pediatric Aids Foundation