Loneliness can hurt more than the heart

Posted on June 3, 2013

I now know why I gained more than 13 kilograms in my early 20s: I was lonely. I had left for school and a job in the Upper Midwest and I knew no one. I filled my lonely nights and days with food, especially candy, cookies and ice cream. I could not rein in my eating until I returned to New York and my family, and began dating my future husband.

Loneliness, says John T. Cacioppo, an award-winning psychologist at the University of Chicago, undermines people's ability to self-regulate. In one experiment he cites, participants made to feel socially disconnected ate many more cookies than those made to feel socially accepted.

In a real-life study of middle-aged and older adults in the Chicago area, Dr. Cacioppo and colleagues found that those who scored high on the University of California, Los Angeles, Loneliness Scale, a widely used assessment, ate more fatty foods than those who scored low.

Even without the presence of unwholesome behaviors, Dr. Cacioppo and others have shown that loneliness can impair health by raising levels of stress hormones and increasing inflammation. The damage can be widespread, affecting every bodily system and brain function.

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Category(s):Social Anxiety / Phobia, Social Isolation

Source material from China Daily

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