We don’t know about you, but when we’re feeling under the weather the last thing we want to do is go out and try to be sociable, instead we’ll stay tucked up in bed with only Netflix for company.
But new research has found that seeing your friends will actually make you feel better when you have a cold, and being lonely is likely to make things worse.
It has long been known that marriage boosts cancer patient’s chances of survival, but nothing had been done to look at how our social circles affect short-term illnesses like the common cold.
Angie LeRoy, who worked on the study at Rice University, Texas, 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.”
The team explained that people who are suffering from loneliness are more prone to reporting that their cold symptoms are more severe than those who have stronger social networks.
A total of 159 people, between the ages of 18 and 55, who were psychologically assessed to be lonely, were then given cold-inducing nasal drops and quarantined for five days in hotel rooms.
Then asked to report on how they felt.
And while it was shown that those who were deemed lonely did report they were feeling worse than others, it wasn’t the size of the participants’ social networks that had bearing on how sick they felt, but the quality of the relationships.
LeRoy said: “Previous research has shown that different psycho-social factors like feeling rejected or feeling left out or not having strong social bonds with other people do make people feel worse physically, mentally and emotionally. So we had that general framework to work with.”
Chris Fagundes, who also worked on the paper, explained that the results should be used by doctors to assess patients who come in to see them: “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.”