Suffering Through Common Cold Feel Worse When You are Lonely

Scientists from Rice University suggests that a common cold or seasonal flu feels worse when you feeling lonely. They found that cold symptoms are more severe than those who have stronger social networks. And it suggests that the social networks do not have bearing on sickness.


The common cold, including chest cold and head cold, and seasonal flu are caused by viruses. A cold is never fun. Catching the flu or common cold is the absolute worst. Scientists from the Rice University suggests that the cold feels even worst when you’re lonely.

The study suggests people who feel lonely are more prone to report that their common cold symptoms are more severe than those who have stronger social networks. Scientist’s main intention was to draw out a distinction between feeling lonely and actual social isolation. It’s all about a particular predisposition (loneliness) interacting with a particular stressor.

Graduate student Angie LeRoy said, “Loneliness puts people at risk for premature mortality and all kinds of other physical illnesses. But nothing had been done to look at an acute but temporary illness that we’re all vulnerable to, like the common cold.”

“This paper is about the quality of your relationships, not the quantity. You can be in a crowded room and feel lonely. That perception is what seems to be important when it comes to these cold symptoms.”

Scientists involved total 159 people under the age of 18-55. Almost 60% of men among them were assessed for their psychological and physical health. They were given with cold-inducing nasal drops and quarantined for five days in hotel rooms.

After five days of stay, participants were monitored on the basis of Short Loneliness Scale and the Social Network Index. Scientists then adjust demographics like gender, age, season, depressive affect and social isolation. And they found that the people who felt lonely were no more likely to get a cold than those who weren’t.

But the people who were in advance for their level of loneliness reported a greater severity of symptoms. It means that the social networks do not have bearing on sickness.

LeRoy said, “We think this is important, particularly because of the economic burden associated with the common cold. Millions of people miss work each year because of it. And that has to do with how they feel, not necessarily with how much they’re blowing their noses.”

Led researcher Chris Fagundes said, “The effect may be the same for those under other kinds of stress. Anytime you have an illness, it’s a stressor, and this phenomenon would probably occur. A predisposition, whether it’s physical or mental, can be exaggerated by a subsequent stressor. In this case, the subsequent stressor is getting sick. But it could be the loss of a loved one, or getting breast cancer, which are subjects we also study.”

“Doctors should take psychological factors into account at intake on a regular basis. It would definitely help them understand the phenomenon when the person comes in sick.”

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