Loneliness breaks the spirit > We are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic which is blamed for increasing the risk of depression, diabetes, dementia, mental illness and even premature death. So maybe we should welcome the loneliness pill being developed at the University of Chicago.
A clinical trial is already underway on the merits of a steroid called pregnenolone*. It is hoped it will reduce over-activity in the parts of the brain which handles heartsickness.
The neuroscientist in charge of the project says pregnenolone therapy will soothe the brain activity that makes us feel anguish in isolation. She explains that we are social creatures, and the isolation we feel emotionally also causes changes to the brain and body.
Lonely people are more likely to develop diabetes and dementia, take up destructive activities like smoking and drinking in place of physical activity. Their risks of death increase, too.
All of this is probably true. Indeed, the connection to dementia has been explored perhaps more thoroughly than any other clinical link to loneliness. Changes in the brain linked to isolation are thought to cause inflammation that in turn promotes memory loss.
The broken-heart effect
Loneliness takes a toll on the heart, too – the so-called broken heart effect. The phenomenon contributes to the shocking 66% increased risk of death for a widow or widower in the first three months after losing a spouse.
But what is even more depressing is the idea that popping loneliness pills will solve our woes. People need people and no amount of drugs can remove that basic human instinct. Fortunately Tonic is a drug free zone.
Footnote > * Pregnenolone, which is naturally made by our bodies, is actually already commercially available, being touted mostly as an anti-aging and pro-memory supplement.
** If you think a loneliness pill is depressing, maybe the alternative making the news this week will be equally scary. It is claimed that housework therapy keeps dementia at bay (the researchers are, of course, male!)