Loneliness Can Make Your Cold Symptoms Seem Even More Severe

As if sniffling and sneezing isn't bad enough

Next time you come down with a horrible cold, you might want to reach for the phone, as well as the tissues.

A study in the US has found that loneliness can make the symptoms of the common cold feel even worse. In the research, published by the American Psychological Association, the authors found that lonelier people complained of more severe symptoms than those with a stronger social network.

"We looked at the quality of people's relationships, not the quantity," study author Angie LeRoy, a graduate student at Rice University, said. "You can be in a crowded room and feel lonely. That perception is what seems to be important when it comes to cold symptoms."

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To establish the link between loneliness and the everyday illness, LeRoy and her team asked 213 healthy adults to complete questionnaires related to their social networks and their mood before they were infected with the cold virus through nasal drops. The participants were then quarantined for five days and were asked to record their symptoms on a five point scale.

Of the 159 of the participants who had developed a cold, the analysis, which took factors like age and gender into account, revealed that those who scored higher on loneliness were no more likely to get a cold than those with low scores. However, they did report symptoms of greater severity.

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While the size of the participants' social networks had no impact on how sick the participants felt, LeRoy says that doctors should take note the mental state of patients when they say they aren't well.

"Loneliness wasn't necessary associated to how biologically ill they were in terms of the severity of their cold but it was associated with how severe they perceive their symptoms to be," LeRoy told the Guardian. "How [patients] feel before [they are unwell] obviously could influence how they feel when they are sick, even with something as simple as a cold," she added.

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