Genetics

What Causes Loneliness?

Excited for the August 21 eclipse? Visit our Eclipse 2017 page to explore the science, history, and myths of the event. The Curiosity team will be viewing the eclipse alongside NASA in Carbondale, Illinois. Follow us on Facebook for live videos, trivia, and interviews on the big day.

Certain genetic markers seem to contribute to loneliness, resulting in some people feeling lonelier than others in the same situation.

Why This Matters

Although lonely feelings can seem based in an external reality—you feel left out because your friends didn't invite you along with them, you don't have enough emotional support because your family lives far away—research shows that's not always the whole story. In 2016, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine examined the genomes of more than 10,000 people to identify the genetic basis for why one person might me more likely to feel lonely than another in the same situation. Their results? Roughly a quarter of someone's risk for loneliness comes down to genetics. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they also found that this genetic tendency for loneliness was associated with a greater risk for depression.

Smart Graphic

Why It's Important

If you think you're in the genetically lonely camp, it can be tempting to throw up your hands and give up—you can't control your genes, after all. But the fact that two people can have the same number of friends or be in the same social situation and only one will feel lonely should demonstrate the power of perspective when it comes to your outlook on life. Did your friends not invite you because they don't like you, or did they know you have a lot of work to catch up on? Does the fact that your family lives far away mean you're destined to be without a shoulder to cry on, or does it just mean you need to call them more often? Reframe your perspective, and you may begin to feel less alone.

Why Do We Feel Lonely?

Find out what loneliness and hunger have in common.

Share the knowledge!

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Studies have linked loneliness to certain genetic markers. 00:59

  2. Astronaut Al Worden was the most isolated man in history. 01:42

  3. Experiencing nostalgia can help with loneliness. 02:56

Why We're Fated To Be Lonely

Look at loneliness through a philosophical lens.

The Loneliness Of Outer Space

Learn about Michael Collins, the loneliest man in the universe.

Share the knowledge!

If you liked this you'll love our podcast! Check it out on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, search 'curiosity' on your favorite podcast app or add the RSS Feed URL.

Advertisement