Loneliness, Depression and Inflammation in Diabetes

According to a study reported on in January of 2019 in the journal Psychophysiology, loneliness affects how people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes handle stress. Stress has known links to heart disease and death, possibly by affecting the different hormones, the nervous system, and inflammation. It is known people with Type 2 diabetes have difficulty dealing with stress: having diabetes itself puts stress on the body, as does a lack of exercise or excess weight. Researchers at the University College in London, United Kingdom, suspected loneliness could impair the biological stress response in those with Type 2 diabetes.

To test their suspicion, the investigators measured several molecules involved in the stress response and inflammation in one hundred and thirty-five participants with Type 2 diabetes, along with a questionnaire on loneliness. It was found high scores on loneliness were linked with abnormal levels of two particular molecules…

  • one abnormality consisted of low levels of cortisol, a hormone that prepares stressed individuals for the fight or flight response.
  • the other was high levels of a molecule called monocyte chemoattractant protein one, or MCP-1, a molecule involved in inflammation.

Loneliness affects most people at one time or another, and sometimes the solution is as close as the nearest telephone or computer. At other times the problem can be deeper and require some work. Taking a class in a fun subject, especially in something like crafts or dancing in which students have plenty of opportunities to interact, can provide a ready supply of people with similar interests. Sometimes it helps to seek professional counseling.

Heidi Halvorson Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today, says lonely people tend to have the most negative thoughts in social situations. When someone seems cold and distant, the typical lonely person might assume the individual does not like them, when in reality he or she might be dealing with an unrelated personal problem. Alternatively, they may just be a naturally quiet reserved type of individual. Dr. Halvorson strongly asserts breaking the pattern of negative thoughts and approaching new relationships with optimism is the way to go in curing loneliness.

Several effective techniques are available for dealing with stress. Reaching for caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol is not one of them. The ancient Romans had a saying, “a healthy mind in a healthy body” and modern science backs this up. During stressful times it is more important than ever to eat natural, nutrient-dense foods, so reach for a piece of fruit instead of a crutch. Physical activity is an excellent way to build up endorphins, which help makes us feel better. Get out and walk the dog and, who knows, maybe you will meet some interesting people out there.