Loneliness May Be in the DNA

Feeling lonely is often thought of as a phase or a rough patch of everyone's life, but a psychologist from the University of Chicago recently conducted a study that suggests that loneliness might be linked to heredity.

Researchers surveyed 8,000 pairs of twins and found that 50 percent shared similar characteristics of loneliness.

"Our results indicate loneliness is not a personality weakness," said John Cacioppo, a psychology professor at Chicago. "Quite the contrary, it is just part of the genetic variation that we find in humans."

The study indicated that loneliness has nothing to do with wealth, height or physical attractiveness.

"The factors that we find predicting loneliness are the factors that lead to a disruption of your social relationships," Cacioppo said.

Loneliness can be dangerous. It's a risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure and poor sleeping patterns.

But even if loneliness is in someone's genes -- it does not mean he or she is condemned to a life sentence of solitude.

"People who are lonely have something a hard time holding on to a sense of being important, valued and loved," says Bethany Marshall, a psychoanalyst who specializes in relationship issues.

Marshall says that people who feel lonely should surround themselves with photos of loved ones, join a church or synagogue and spend time with more social people.

"If we spend time with people who are more social than us, it teaches us to be more engaged and helps us form the building blocks of friendship," Marshall said.