A new study from a team of researchers specializing in psychology and social networks suggests that loneliness can spread through groups of friends and family members. In the analysis of nearly 4,500 polled about how frequently they felt lonely, researchers found that close friends and family members of people who reported persistent loneliness were 52% more likely to report feeling isolated themselves. So how does this contagion effect work? John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago and an author of the study spoke with TIME’s Alice Park:
“People who feel lonely view the social world as more threatening,” he says. “They may not be aware they are doing it, but lonely individuals think negatively about other people. So if you are my friend, and I started to treat you negatively, then over time, we would stop being friends. But in the meantime, our interactions caused you to treat other people less positively, so you’re likely to lose friends, and they in turn are likely to lose friends. That appears to be the means of transmission for loneliness.”
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