Researchers have found that social isolation and loneliness could be associated with increased inflammation in the body, though loneliness and isolation should neither be used interchangeably nor grouped together.
For arriving at the findings, published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioural Reviews, researchers analysed 30 previous studies to investigate the link between social isolation and loneliness with inflammation in the body."Our results suggest loneliness and social isolation are linked with different inflammatory markers. This shows how important it is to distinguish between loneliness and isolation, and that these terms should neither be used interchangeably nor grouped together," said study researcher Christina Victor, professor at Brunel University in UK.
According to the researchers, inflammation is the body's way of signalling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defending itself against viruses and bacteria.
Inflammation can eventually start damaging healthy cells, tissues and organs and lead to an increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
Researchers found that social isolation, the objective state of being isolated from other people, was associated with the presence of C-reactive protein, a protein substance released into the bloodstream within hours of a tissue injury, and increased levels of the glycoprotein fibrinogen, which is converted into fibrin-based blood clots.
Interestingly, researchers also identified that the link between social isolation and physical inflammation was more likely to be observed in males than females.
Further work is needed to clarify why this might be, but previous work suggests that males and females might respond differently to social stressors, the said."The evidence we examined suggests that social isolation may be linked with inflammation, but the results for a direct link between loneliness and inflammation were less convincing," said study researcher Kimberley Smith, professor at the University of Surrey in UK.
"We believe these results are an important first step in helping us to better understand how loneliness and social isolation may be linked with health outcomes," Smith added.