Loneliness Is Communicable

Feel bad, friends feel bad—but only for 3 degrees of separation
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2009 12:13 PM CST

(Newser) – Lonelyhearts of the world unite—your malaise may not be the fault of your particular situation, but rather that of contagious ill-feeling. A new study finds that loneliness is infectious—lonely neighbors that interact regularly with those next-door pass on increased loneliness. So “you can use your friends to get you out of negative moods,” the lead researcher tells USA Today, but the opposite is also true.

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“When you feel lonely, you have more negative interactions than non-lonely people,” the researcher continues, and “you're more likely to interact with someone else in a more negative way, and that person is more likely to interact in a negative way.” Luckily, the “effect of contagiousness stops significantly after three degrees of separation.” Women are more prone to “catching” loneliness, and the bug spreads more quickly between friends than family. (Read more lonely stories.)

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