Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Heredity may be the reason some people feel lonely


Heredity helps determine why some adults are persistently lonely, research co-authored by psychologists at the University of Chicago shows.

Working with colleagues in The Netherlands, the scholars found about 50 percent of identical twins and 25 percent of fraternal twins shared similar characteristics of loneliness. Research on twins is a powerful method to study the impact of heredity because twins raised together share many of the same environmental influences as well as similar genes, thus making it easier to determine the role of genetics in development.

"An interesting implication of this research is that feelings of loneliness may reflect an innate emotional response to stimulus conditions over which an individual may have little or no control," the research team writes in the article, "Genetic and Environmental Contributors to Loneliness in Adults: The Netherlands Twin Register Study" published in the current issue of the journal Behavior Genetics. Psychologists had previously thought loneliness was primarily caused by shyness, poor social skills, or inability to form strong attachments with other people.

Scholars are becoming increasingly interested in the role loneliness plays in health. Other work by John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago and a member of the research team, shows that loneliness is a risk factor for heart disease. Loneliness is also at the base of a number of emotional conditions, such as self-esteem, mood, anxiety, anger and sociability.

A caring environment can help lonely people overcome their feelings, but the research also shows that in some cases, the impact of heredity is stronger, said Cacioppo, who was joined in the study by Louise Hawkley, a Senior Research Scientist in Psychology at the University.

The lead author of the article was Dorret Boomsma, a Professor of Biolgoical Psychology at the Free University in Amsterdam. Boomsma is one of the world’s most prominent researchers on twins and heredity. Other researchers with the project are Gonneke Willemsen of the Free University and Conor Dolan of the University of Amsterdam.

The study was based on data from 8,387 twins in The Netherlands, who have been surveyed regularly since 1991. Smaller, earlier studies done with children suggested that the tendency toward loneliness could be inherited. The Dutch-U.S. study is the first to be done on adults and shows that heredity persists in playing a role in loneliness as people age.

As part of the study, the twins were asked to rate to what extent certain descriptions applied to them, such as "Others don’t like me," "I lose friends very quickly," "I feel lonely," and "Nobody loves me."

People noted a wide variety of responses to the descriptions, with 35 percent of the men and 50 percent of the women reporting moderate to extreme feelings of loneliness.

The researchers write that loneliness may have developed early in human evolution as a response by hunter-gathers facing conditions of undernourishment who may have decided not to share their food with their families. By surviving a famine, those early ancestors would be able to propagate during periods of plenty, the researchers theorized. In developing loneliness as an adaptation to survival, these early humans also developed dispositions toward anxiety, hostility, negativity and social avoidance, they said.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and the U.S. National Institute of Aging.

"The genetics of social behavior is an intriguing and expanding area of research," says Jeffrey W. Elias, cognitive aging specialist at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). "This study suggests there may be a genetic component to loneliness, such that people with a predisposition to loneliness may process social interaction and information differently. This is important to know as we investigate the effects of behavior and emotion on health and longevity."

William Harms | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>