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Insane Opinion

from the LA Times

Opinion

All the lonely people

Researchers argue that far from being a personal issue, mass loneliness threatens our public health.

Gregory Rodriguez

What’s a good way to keep from getting lonely in this high holy season of togetherness? Stay away from lonely people.

It’s brutal but true, and it’s the cutting-edge finding of researchers whose mission it is to discover the causes of loneliness so that we can combat it with full force.

Think this is just a scholarly version of a “Dr. Phil” episode? Think again.

The lead researcher on this project — with UC San Diego’s James H. Fowler and Harvard’s Nicholas A. Christakis — is University of Chicago neuroscientist John T. Cacioppo, who last year co-wrote a groundbreaking book arguing that far from being a personal issue, mass loneliness threatens our public health. This new study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, seeks to map the geography of loneliness. Who feels it? And what is the connection of these Eleanor Rigbys to the rest of us?

What the authors find is that, like a virus, loneliness is contagious. People become lonely because of who they know as much as who they don’t know. It makes sense, really. When people are lonely, they tend to be less trusting and even irritable toward others. This type of behavior can easily make those on the receiving end feel a sense of isolation and loneliness themselves. In other words, lonely people pass on their loneliness. Before alienated people check into a cave, they alienate others, thereby continuing the chain. As the researchers put it, this means that loneliness is “both a cause and consequence of becoming disconnected.”

[ click to continue reading at the LA Times ]

Posted on December 14, 2009 by Editor

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