El secreto de una buena vejez no es mas que un pacto honrado con la soledad.
-Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Sometimes as I write, I come across article that hit a little close to home. Not things that are contentious, or antagonistic to what I believe – I can accept those as honest debate – but the hardest ones are those that confirm something I already felt I knew.
Researchers from Ohio State University just put out a new study that links loneliness to several conditions – in particular, it seems that lonely people tend to have dysfunctional immune responses.
Two different study groups both exhibited similar patterns of correlation. Latent virus infections like cold sores were elevated in lonelier people. Their bodies also responded to stress differently than well-connected people. Lonely people had higher levels of inflammation proteins in their blood. Inflammation can signal or proceed a number of different conditions that are usually associated with aging such as heart disease, arthritis, or Alzheimer’s.
Previous studies have also, unsurprisingly, linked loneliness with a number of psychological issues such as depression, alcoholism, and suicide.
Loneliness has been a constant companion to many people – myself included – and a number of great works of art have been dedicated to trying to understand it. Jean-Paul Sartre believed it was an inescapable part of the human condition and I firmly believe One Hundred Years of Solitude is the greatest piece of literature ever written.
So looking through news articles today, it was almost poetic to see science hint at what I already knew. Loneliness feels like growing old all at once.