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Health Effects of Feelings of Disconnection

Most of the research literature refers to feelings of disconnection from other beings, or loneliness. 


We believe that loneliness is a subclasss of unsuspected feelings of disconnection from the grand scheme of the world.  Considering that spirituality is defined as a feeling of being connected in the grand scheme of things,  spritual consciousness is an antidote to feelings of existential disconnection.


We believe that feelings of disconnection from the world may have even grander effects, though these effects may be considered "normal" because their pervasiness.   We present, briefly, a study listed by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.


A Meta-Analysis of Interventions to Reduce Loneliness

by Christopher M. Masi,1,3 Hsi-Yuan Chen,2,3 Louise C. Hawkley,2,3 and John T. Cacioppo2,3, published in Personality and Social Psychology Journal Rev 2011, Aug; 15(3) 10.1177/1088868310377394



Health Effects of Feelings of Loneliness



"The associations between loneliness and physical and mental health indicate that loneliness influences virtually every aspect of life in our social species. For example, loneliness not only involves painful feelings of isolation, disconnectedness from others and not belonging (Hawkley, Browne, & Cacioppo, 2005) but it is also a risk factor for myriad health conditions, including increased vascular resistance in young adults (Cacioppo, Hawkley, Crawford et al., 2002; Hawkley, Burleson, Berntson, & Cacioppo, 2003), elevated systolic blood pressure in older adults (Cacioppo, Hawkley, Crawford et al., 2002; Hawkley, Masi, Berry, & Cacioppo, 2006; Hawkley, Thisted, Masi, & Cacioppo, 2010), less restorative sleep (Cacioppo, Hawkley, Berntson et al., 2002; Hawkley, Preacher, & Cacioppo, 2010), increased hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical activity (Adam, Hawkley, Kudielka, & Cacioppo, 2006), diminished immunity (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 1984; Pressman et al., 2005), under-expression of genes bearing anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid response elements (Cole et al., 2007), and abnormal ratios of circulating white blood cells (e.g., neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes) (Cole, 2008). In addition, longitudinal analysis reveals that adults who were socially isolated as children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including overweight, high blood pressure, high total cholesterol, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high glycated hemoglobin, and low maximum oxygen consumption (Caspi, Harrington, Moffitt, Milne, & Poulton, 2006), as well as elevated high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) (Danese et al., 2009).


Compared to non-lonely individuals, lonely people are also more likely to suffer from cognitive decline (Tilvis et al., 2004) and progression of Alzheimer’s disease (Wilson et al., 2007). Animal studies are beginning to shed light on the mechanism by which these effects may occur. Among mice, social isolation reduces central anti-inflammatory responses and increases infarct size following induction of stroke (Karelina et al., 2009). In addition, socially isolated animals demonstrate less dendritic arborization in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (Silva-Gomez, Rojas, Juarez, & Flores, 2003) as well as decreased production of brain-derived neurotropic factors (Barrientos et al., 2003). Whereas it is unknown whether similar effects occur in humans, experimental manipulation that leads people to believe they face a future of social isolation has been shown to impair executive functioning. Compared to controls, the “future alone” group performed similarly on a rote memorization task but consumed more delicious but unhealthy foods (Baumeister, DeWall, Ciarocco, & Twenge, 2005) and were more aggressive toward others (Twenge, Baumeister, Tice, & Stucke, 2001). Therefore, perceived future isolation did not reduce routine mental ability but rather impaired higher order executive functioning related to food consumption and social interaction.


Loneliness impairs executive functioning in part because it triggers implicit hypervigilance for social threats (Cacioppo & Hawkley, 2009). Heightened sensitivity to social threats results in biases in attention and cognition toward negative aspects of the social context. These social cognitions subtly influence behaviors, social interactions, and affect in a confirmatory fashion that exacerbates feelings of sadness and loneliness. Maladaptive social cognitions have consequences for mental health and well-being. Loneliness has been shown to predict depressive symptoms (Cacioppo, Hawkley, & Thisted, in press; Cacioppo, Hughes, Waite, Hawkley, & Thisted, 2006) and suicidal ideation and behavior (Rudatsikira, Muula, Siziya, & Twa-Twa, 2007). The impact of loneliness on such diverse aspects of physical and mental health provides justification for interventions to mitigate this experience."



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