Being lonely makes you feel sicker, Rice and University of Houston study finds

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Updated 11:59 am, Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Science has explained why getting stuck with a cold can feel all the more miserable without a significant other or friend to heat up some soup.

A new study by researchers from Rice University and the University of Houston found that victims of the common cold feel worse if they also feel lonely.

The findings, published by the American Psychological Association, found that people with weaker social networks reported the severity of their cold symptoms to be worse than those with stronger social networks, or those who didn’t feel lonely.


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“Research has shown that loneliness puts people at risk for early death and other physical illnesses,” said study author Angie LeRoy in a prepared statement, a graduate student in psychology at Rice University. “But nothing had been done to look at an acute but temporary illness that we’re all vulnerable to — the common cold.”

The scientists examined 159 people between the ages of 18 and 55, who they infected with the common cold and quarantined in a hotel room for five days.

Of the participants who came down with the cold, those who felt lonelier reported their symptoms to be worse. The study noted that loneliness plays no role in the likelihood of coming down with the cold. In addition, the size of a person’s social network plays no role in the reported severity of a person’s symptoms. 

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“Doctors should take psychological factors into account at intake. It would help them understand the phenomenon when a person comes in sick,” said study co-author Chris Fagundes in a statement. “It would help them understand the phenomenon when a person comes in sick.”

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