Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Heredity may be the reason some people feel lonely

11.11.2005


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:
http://www.uchicago.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

nachricht WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>