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Cognitive-behavioral therapy was effective in addressing negative thoughts linked to loneliness — a risk factor for heart disease — U.S. researchers say.
John Cacioppo, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, says researchers recently characterized the negative influence of loneliness upon blood pressure, sleep quality, dementia and other health measures. The findings suggest loneliness is a health risk factor, similar to obesity or smoking.
The study, published online in Personality and Social Psychology Review, says changing how a person perceives and thinks about others was the most effective intervention for loneliness.
“People are becoming more isolated, and this health problem is likely to grow,” Cacioppo says in a statement. “If we know that loneliness is involved in health problems, the next question is what we can do to mitigate it.”
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis on loneliness interventions that involved four categories — improving social skills, increasing social support, creating opportunities for social interaction and addressing social cognition.
“Effective interventions are not so much about providing others with whom people can interact, providing social support, or teaching social skills as they are about changing how people who feel lonely perceive, think about, and act toward other people,” Cacioppo says.