Loneliness Is a Molecule: UCLA researchers identify the molecular signature of loneliness

It is already known that a person's social environment can affect his or her health, with those who are socially isolated - that is, lonely - suffering from higher mortality than people who are not. Now, in the first study of its kind, published in the current issue of the journal Genome Biology, UCLA researchers have identified a distinct pattern of gene expression in immune cells from people who experience chronically high levels of loneliness. The findings suggest that feelings of social isolation are linked to alterations in the activity of genes that drive inflammation, the first response of the immune system. The study provides a molecular framework for understanding why social factors are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, viral infections and cancer.