A new study revealed that the genes might be one of the reason why some people are more prone to feeling lonely compared to others.
The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, suggests that the risk for feeling lonely might be caused by genetics and can be considered as a heritable trait.
"For two people with the same number of close friends and family, one might see their social structure as adequate while the other doesn't," explained Abraham Palmer, PhD, professor of psychiatry and vice chair for basic research at UC San Diego School of Medicine and lead author of the study, in a press release. "And that's what we mean by 'genetic predisposition to loneliness' -- we want to know why, genetically speaking, one person is more likely than another to feel lonely, even in the same situation."
For the study, the researchers examined the genetic and health information of 10,760 people aged 50 years and older from the Health and Retirement Study. Each participant was asked to answer three well-established questions to measure loneliness.
After accounting the gender, age and marital status, the researchers found that loneliness, or the tendency to feel lonely over a lifetime, is about 14 to 27 percent genetic and can be inherited. This shows that even genes might be to blame for loneliness, but environmental factors play a bigger role.
Additionally, the researchers discovered that people who have inherited loneliness could also have neuroticism (long-term negative emotional state) and a scale of depressive symptoms. On the other hand, no link between heritable loneliness and schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder were found.
With their discovery, the researchers are now working to find a genetic predictor or the specific genetic variations responsible for the hereditary trait of loneliness. Finding these genes could provide additional insights into the molecular mechanisms influencing the feeling of loneliness.
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