Loneliness Is Contagious Essay

1161 words - 5 pages

Loneliness is an emotional state everyone experiences. A person can be surrounded by people yet feel lonely. John Cacioppo, a psychologist at University of Chicago joined with social network scientists Dr. Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University and James Fowler of University of California, San Diego. They did a survey of over 4,500 volunteers to determine the effects of loneliness.

Research in neuroscience and social science has shown that loneliness is an emotional state that affects people individually. It is not necessarily a symptom of being friendless but is an indication of social health. Loneliness is often viewed as a sign of psychological illness, poor social skills, or interverted nature. People feed off social interactions; they grow, create, and encourage each other. Now research suggests loneliness has more affect on people then thought. Cacioppo believes that loneliness is a persistent condition. The latest study by these researchers, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and funded by the National Institute of Aging, examines the spread of loneliness. Christakis and Fowler have done studies showing emotional states and behavior can spread widely and rapidly through a society. One of their studies, the Framingham Heart Study, is an ongoing trial to identify risks for cardiovascular disease. Cacioppo used the same data set Christakis and Fowler have gathered from previous studies. The study on loneliness was a survey in the form of a questionnaire with over 4,500 participants. The results showed that loneliness spreads, that one lonely person could impact feelings of others in their social network. Cacioppo thinks lonely individuals think negatively about other people. Negative treatment of others results in losing friends, and over time lonely people can become isolated. The presence of loneliness in workplace, neighborhood, etc indicates cohesiveness. Strategies help manage loneliness, such as keeping people integrated with their social group. The quality of a social relationship is more important than the number of social relationships. Cacioppo hopes to intervene at individual, city, and development levels. Future research will include how loneliness spreads and why it spreads.

When doing a study a researcher follows the scientific method. According to the book Sociology, by Richard Shaefer, the scientific method is a systematic, organized series of steps that ensure objectivity and consistency. The first step is to define the problem, identify what you are investigating. The problem being investigated in this study is loneliness. Feelings of isolation are greatest when surrounded by people. The second step is to review the literature aka gathering information from other studies. Cacioppo partnered two social network scientists Christakis and Fowler. Christakis and Fowler headed the Framingham Heart Study, 1983, an ongoing study identifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Cacioppo used...

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