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Loneliness 'can make you cold'

Feeling lonely can literally give you the shivers, for a new study has revealed that social isolation makes people feel cold.

world Updated: Sep 29, 2008 14:34 IST

Feeling lonely can literally give you the shivers, for a new study has revealed that social isolation makes people feel cold.

And, according to researchers, raising the temperature can help someone who's feeling low in the same way that people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are helped with light therapy.

"We found that the experience of social exclusion literally feels cold. This may be why people use temperature- related metaphors to describe social inclusion and exclusion," lead researcher Dr Chen-Bo Zhong of Toronto University said.

Researchers have based their findings after carrying out two experiments.

In the first experiment, 65 students were divided into two groups -- one group recalled a personal experience in which they had been socially excluded, felt isolated or lonely such as being rejected from a club.

The other group recalled an experience in which they had been accepted. The researchers then asked everyone to estimate the room's temperature.

The estimates varied from about 54 F (12C) to 104 F (40C) -- with those who thought about an isolating experience giving lower estimates of the temperature, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

In the second experiment, the researchers asked 52 students to play a computer-simulated ball game. It's designed so that some of the volunteers had the ball tossed to them many times, but others were left out.

Afterwards, all the volunteers were asked to rate the desirability of hot coffee, crackers, soft-drinks, an apple, or hot soup. The unpopular participants were much more likely than the others to want either hot soup or hot coffee.

The researchers suggested that their preference for warm food and drinks resulted from physically feeling cold as a result of being excluded.

According to them, the findings could be used to treat people's feelings of sadness or loneliness.

"An interesting direction for research would be to determine whether experiencing the warmth of an object could reduce the negative experience of social exclusion. Such an implication has been used metaphorically in the self-help literature, but our research suggests that eating warm soup may be a literal coping mechanism for social exclusion."

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the Writing in the 'Psychological Science' journal.