New Republic has a really interesting article about how loneliness kills. It isn’t just a hypothesis anymore, research suggests that people who perpetually feel lonely often live shorter lives and often become sick more frequently than those with social groups that can support them.

Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

What’s alarming to me though is that loneliness in one’s life can be directly attributed to loneliness as a child. Children who were deprived of attention from a loving parent or from friends are more likely to be lonely later in life (of course, not all lonely kids become lonely adults).