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Chronic Loneliness Linked to Early Death

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  • Chronic Loneliness Linked to Early Death

    Finally, a scientific study showing that lonely people often suffer premature death. More good cheer for those gaijin who are living the shoebox life in Japan. If you are more lonely in Japan than you were at 'home', maybe it is time to consider the unthinkable.

    Mom and Pop are waiting for you.......get on that plane and get back home, it'd do you good.


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    Feb 24th 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition of the Economist
    Lonely people, it seems, are at greater risk than the gregarious of developing illnesses associated with chronic inflammation, such as heart disease and certain cancers. According to a paper published last year in the Public Library of Science, Medicine, the effect on mortality of loneliness is comparable with that of smoking and drinking. It examined, and combined the results of, 148 previous studies that followed some 300,000 individuals for an average period of 7.5 years each, and controlled for factors such as age and pre-existing illness. It concluded that, over such a period, a gregarious person has a 50% better chance of surviving than a lonely one.

    Steven Cole of the University of California, Los Angeles, thinks he may know why this is so. He told the AAAS meeting in Washington, DC, about his work studying the expression of genes in lonely people. Dr Cole harvested samples of white blood cells from both lonely and gregarious people. He then analysed the activity of their genes, as measured by the production of a substance called messenger RNA. This molecule carries instructions from the genes telling a cell which proteins to make. The level of messenger RNA from most genes was the same in both types of people. There were several dozen genes, however, that were less active in the lonely, and several dozen others that were more active. Moreover, both the less active and the more active gene types came from a small number of functional groups.

    Broadly speaking, the genes less active in the lonely were those involved in staving off viral infections. Those that were more active were involved in protecting against bacteria. Dr Cole suspects this could help explain not only why the lonely are iller, but how, in evolutionary terms, this odd state of affairs has come about. For inflammation is an antibacterial response.

    The crucial bit of the puzzle is that viruses have to be caught from another infected individual and they are usually species-specific. Bacteria, in contrast, often just lurk in the environment (like tetanus), and may thrive on many hosts (as does bubonic plague, for example). The gregarious are therefore at greater risk than the lonely of catching viruses, and Dr Cole thus suggests that past evolution has created a mechanism (the details of which remain unclear) which causes white cells to respond appropriately. Conversely, the lonely are better off ramping up their protection against bacterial infection, which is a bigger relative risk to them.

    What Dr Cole seems to have revealed, then, is a mechanism by which the environment (in this case the social environment) reaches inside a personfs body and tweaks its genome so that it responds appropriately. It is not that the lonely and the gregarious are genetically different from each other. Rather, their genes are regulated differently, according to how sociable an individual is. Dr Cole thinks this regulation is part of a wider mechanism that tunes individuals to the circumstances they find themselves in. Where it goes wrong is when loneliness becomes chronic, and the inflammatory response becomes chronic at the same time.

    Before civilisation intervened, such chronic loneliness would have been so rare (because isolated individuals are so vulnerable to predation) that evolution would have ignored it. Now, paradoxically, the large population that civilisation makes possible means loneliness is commonplace\and with it consequences that natural selection, which is blind to the future, has not yet had time to deal with.

  • #2
    Originally posted by rainbowtokyo View Post
    Finally, a scientific study showing that lonely people often suffer premature death. More good cheer for those gaijin who are living the shoebox life in Japan. If you are more lonely in Japan than you were at 'home', maybe it is time to consider the unthinkable.

    Mom and Pop are waiting for you.......get on that plane and get back home, it'd do you good.

    Thanks for the cheer. Last time I looked, the census indicated that any "lonely" gaijin were considerably less lonely than they were in their home countries (males only surprisingly). Who really believes those numbers, I ask you?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by rainbowtokyo View Post
      Finally, a scientific study showing that lonely people often suffer premature death. More good cheer for those gaijin who are living the shoebox life in Japan. If you are more lonely in Japan than you were at 'home', maybe it is time to consider the unthinkable.

      Mom and Pop are waiting for you.......get on that plane and get back home, it'd do you good......
      what are you blabbering about now??? In all my years in Japan, I have never met, never heard of any gaijin living what you call "a shoebox life"! Lonely?? In this country?? Only if you go out of your way to avoid people! Shhhsh!

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      • #4

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        • #5
          Originally posted by well_bicyclically View Post
          what are you blabbering about now??? In all my years in Japan, I have never met, never heard of any gaijin living what you call "a shoebox life"! Lonely?? In this country?? Only if you go out of your way to avoid people! Shhhsh!
          By definition, there could be scores of them and you wouldn't have met them.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Effected After View Post
            By definition, there could be scores of them and you wouldn't have met them.
            'Tis true. 30,000+ suicides in Japan over for the past 12 years of so and I haven't met any of them....

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            • #7
              "Alone" and "lonely" are two separate terms. You can't ever really be alone in Japan but you can sure as hell be lonely.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Call_It_Like_Eye_See_It View Post
                'Tis true. 30,000+ suicides in Japan over for the past 12 years of so and I haven't met any of them....

                OP is projecting his own lonely life onto what he assumes is the same life here, but in a smaller residence. I doubt any foreigners are included in that 30,000 ... out of national pride...

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by rainbowtokyo View Post
                  It examined, and combined the results of, 148 previous studies that followed some 300,000 individuals for an average period of 7.5 years each, and controlled for factors such as age and pre-existing illness. It concluded that, over such a period, a gregarious person has a 50% better chance of surviving than a lonely one.
                  50 percent better chance of survival over an average period of 7.5 years seems way too high. If we are generous and say that 100% of gregarious people survived that period, that means that at best 66% of lonely people will survive, or am I misreading this?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Seattlegirl View Post
                    "Alone" and "lonely" are two separate terms. You can't ever really be alone in Japan but you can sure as hell be lonely.
                    So are you lonely if you want to be left alone all the time?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rainbowtokyo View Post
                      Mom and Pop are waiting for you.......get on that plane and get back home, it'd do you good.
                      This is seriously one of your more ridiculous posts. You need to be on the Japanese language boards with this. Foreigners, lonely in Japan? Have you ever lived here? I think I speak for most people when I say this, we have very little personal time due to the constant need to "let go" those friendly folk wanting to friend us up.

                      I am going to have to formally ground you from making any silly posts for the next 2 weeks. On the upside, I have sharpened your crayons and put a lot of paper in your room.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ozzijp View Post
                        This is seriously one of your more ridiculous posts. .
                        A scientific study showing a link between chronic loneliness and poor health. It's a first as far as I know. It is so ridiculous they printed it in a respected international journal. It's also done the rounds in Lancet and JAMA.


                        Originally posted by ozzijp View Post
                        Have you ever lived here? .
                        Yes.

                        Originally posted by ozzijp View Post
                        I speak for most people when I say this, we have very little personal time
                        Some people here on GP, despite being busy with overwhelming work and social commitments, still manage to post several times everyday. They must either be very bored or very lonely. Or maybe, like KB, they are extremely kind and want to help their fellow gaijin in Japan. Of course I'm delighted to know you aren't lonely Ozzijp You seem to have coped well with recent events in your personal life. Good on you. Hope la famiglia is doing ok.


                        Originally posted by ozzijp View Post
                        the constant need to "let go" those friendly folk wanting to friend us up. .
                        Cynical people would call these 'friends' English Bandits but I agree with you - they are harmless enough and make for amusing company. On my part, I am almost always never lonely in Japan.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rainbowtokyo View Post
                          ...Some people here on GP, despite being busy with overwhelming work and social commitments, still manage to post several times everyday. They must either be very bored or very lonely.....
                          ...or maybe they are here seeking re-afirmation that they made the right decision to leave their homelands as those that stayed (like you!) are absolute nut jobs without so much as a clue to what earning a living and making a live for oneself abroad is really like.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by well_bicyclically View Post
                            .. without so much as a clue to what earning a living and making a live for oneself abroad is really like.
                            If you mean I don't have a clue about the English entertainment business, then you are entirely right. Count me out pal. I'm not into deceiving people that I'm teaching them English. That's for people like you.

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                            • #15
                              Are you the guy on here a few weeks ago asking what club to join to make friends?
                              Oh yeah... that was you.. how's that going?
                              Last edited by twelvedown; 2012-04-16, 12:37 AM.

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