Loneliness is Inherited to Some Extent

Loneliness is Inherited to Some ExtentLoneliness is Inherited to Some Extent

If you’re feeling lonely, it could be because you inherited it from your parents, a new study suggests.

You might think of loneliness as no one to eat pizza and watch the game with on a Friday night. But being blue is becoming a significant public health problem, linked to poor physical and mental health, and is just as good a predictor of early death as obesity.

So it’s only understandable that more resources are now being thrown at the problem, and a significant new study published in Neuropsychopharmacology has confirmed an earlier theory: that your loneliness may be dictated by your genes.

The study of more than 10,000 people also found that the genetic risk for loneliness is associated with neuroticism and depressive symptoms, reports

Leading the research was Abraham Palmer, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and vice chair for basic research at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Palmer and his team explain in the paper that just as physical pain alerts us to the potential for tissue damage and motivates us to care for our physical bodies, loneliness is part of a biological warning system that has evolved to alert us of threats or damage to our social selves.

But the clue that genetics plays a role lies in the fact that not everyone perceives loneliness the same way. One person’s social bliss may be inadequate for another.

“And that’s what we mean by ‘genetic predisposition to loneliness,’” Palmer says in a press release. “We want to know why, genetically speaking, one person is more likely than another to feel lonely, even in the same situation.”

Previous research had linked loneliness to genetics, but Palmer says the samples were always too small to be truly significant. But by drawing on some longitudinal research known as the Health and Retirement Study, the team was able to accumulate the health information of 10,760 people aged 50 years and older.

With subjects answering three simple questions, Palmer and the team found that loneliness is up to 27% genetic. Researchers also determined that loneliness tends to be co-inherited with neuroticism and a bunch of other depressive symptoms.