Loneliness and Depression May Activate the Latent Herpes Virus

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Lonely and depressed people showed signs of elevated latent herpes reactivation. – Ohio State University  (1)

A study showed that loneliness and depression increases the level of chronic stress, which in turn hurts the immune system. The weakened immune system fails to control the latent herpes virus. The latent herpes virus reactivates and causes an outbreak.

The study showed that lonely and depressed people “produced more inflammation-related (viral) proteins in response to acute stress than did people who felt more socially connected.” (1)


In addition, “These (viral) proteins signal the presence of inflammation, and chronic inflammation is linked to numerous conditions, including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the frailty and functional decline that can accompany aging.” (1)

Lisa Jaremka, said that “It is clear from previous research that poor-quality relationships are linked to a number of health problems, including premature mortality and all sorts of other very serious health conditions. And people who are lonely clearly feel like they are in poor-quality relationships.” She is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University.

The herpes viruses that may be responsible for these issues are the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and the human cytomegalovirus (CMV). “Both are herpes viruses that infect a majority of Americans. About half of infections do not produce illness, but once a person is infected, the viruses remain dormant in the body and can be reactivated, resulting in elevated antibody levels, or titers – again, often producing no symptoms but hinting at regulatory problems in the cellular immune system.” (1)

The bottom line?

Loneliness has been thought of in many ways as a chronic stressor that may be a trigger for the reactivation of these viruses, and in turn, these viruses may cause inflammation in the brain and elsewhere that can lead to emotional stress.


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