Loneliness kills, hunabs and ants. But hiw and why?
During his three controversial terms as mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg launched all-out public-health crusades against some of his constituents’ favorite vices, including cigarettes, trans fats, and sodas. Perhaps he should have declared war on loneliness, instead. Scientists have repeatedly found that people who lack—or believe that they lack—close social connections have significantly higher mortality rates than those who find themselves surrounded by friends. One 2010 meta-analysis suggested that social isolation may be more dangerous than obesity and just as deadly as smoking. Loneliness and isolation appear to alter hormone levels, immune responses, and gene expression, and to increase the risk for a variety of ailments, including heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s.
Humans are not the only creatures that benefit from a little companionship; isolation can also enfeeble rats, mice, pigs, rabbits, squirrel monkeys, starlings, and parrots. And it takes a particular toll on Camponotus fellah, a species of carpenter ant. According to a new study by researchers at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, worker ants that live alone have one-tenth the life span of those that live in small groups.