Rice University study reveals lonely people have worse cold symptoms

HOUSTON - Turns out having a common cold can be tougher on those feeling lonely.

"If you're lonely, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're more likely to get sick, but if you do get sick you're more likely to feel worse," graduate student Angie LeRoy said. Roy is a part of a joint program with Rice University and University of Houston.

Along with Rice psychologist Chris Fagundes, LeRoy was a part of a research team that discovered people who feel lonely are more prone to report that their cold symptoms are more severe than those who have stronger social networks.

Their report has been published in the journal Health Psychology.

Sixty percent of men who participated in the study, which involved 159 people ages 18 - 55, were assessed for their psychological and physical health. During the research, the subjects were given cold-inducing nasal drops and quarantined for five days in hotel rooms. They were monitored both during and after the five-day stay.

Researchers adjusted the findings according to certain demographics such as gender, age, the season, depressive affect and social isolation. The results showed those who felt lonely were no more likely to get a cold than those who weren't.

And not all participants became infected.

Those who were screened in advance for their level of loneliness and became infected reported a greater severity of symptoms than those recorded in previous studies used as controls.

The final analysis determined that the size of the participants social networks appeared to have no bearing on how sick they felt.