Loneliness is an emotion that doesn’t always make a lot of sense. Two people may have very similar social lives, and yet one might feel isolated more often than the other — even when surrounded by people they know and love, who know and love them back.
These are the contradictions at the heart of a large new study published online last week in the Nature journal Neuropsychopharmacology, which finds that loneliness appears to be a “modestly heritable” trait. A predisposition to feeling lonely may run in the family, in other words. But there’s a caveat here, in that the authors of this study contend the link between genetics and a predisposition toward feeling isolated isn’t as strong as others have claimed.
A quick rundown of these new findings: The researchers drew from the Health and Retirement Study, from which they gathered genetic information for 10,760 Americans aged 50 or older. Their results suggest that a tendency to feel lonely may be 14 to 27 percent genetic, considerably lower than the 37 to 55 percent suggested by other studies.