Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms.

TitleLoneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsHawkley, LC, Cacioppo, JT
JournalAnn Behav Med
Date Published2010 Oct
ISSN Number1532-4796
KeywordsCognition, Gene Expression, Health Status, Humans, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Immune System, Loneliness, Mental Health, Mortality, Pituitary-Adrenal System

As a social species, humans rely on a safe, secure social surround to survive and thrive. Perceptions of social isolation, or loneliness, increase vigilance for threat and heighten feelings of vulnerability while also raising the desire to reconnect. Implicit hypervigilance for social threat alters psychological processes that influence physiological functioning, diminish sleep quality, and increase morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this paper is to review the features and consequences of loneliness within a comprehensive theoretical framework that informs interventions to reduce loneliness. We review physical and mental health consequences of loneliness, mechanisms for its effects, and effectiveness of extant interventions. Features of a loneliness regulatory loop are employed to explain cognitive, behavioral, and physiological consequences of loneliness and to discuss interventions to reduce loneliness. Loneliness is not simply being alone. Interventions to reduce loneliness and its health consequences may need to take into account its attentional, confirmatory, and memorial biases as well as its social and behavioral effects.

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Alternate JournalAnn Behav Med
Citation Key7538
PubMed ID20652462
PubMed Central IDPMC3874845
Grant ListR01-AG034052 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
Z99 RG999999 / ImNIH / Intramural NIH HHS / United States
R01 AG034052 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01 AG036433 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01-AG036433-01 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States