Two newly published University of Arizona studies suggest that superficial relationships can not only result in feelings of detachment, but also contribute to certain health-related problems, including inadequate sleep.
"There is an association between social networks and health but the precise mechanism is not understood," said Stacey Passalacqua, who recently earned her UA doctorate in interpersonal and health communication with a minor in psychology.
Passalacqua and Chris Segrin, the UA communication department head and lead author on the papers, decided to study individual perceptions of stress and social support to understand ways loneliness may be linked to health.
In their study of 265 adults ages 19 to 85, Segrin and Passalacqua found that stress serves a crucial function for those who reported being lonely.
They found that lonely people were prone to have fewer close connections, were less apt to manage daily stressors well, and tended not to keep up on their health. Also, lonely people did not get adequate sleep.
The findings were published in a coauthored article, "Functions of Loneliness, Social Support, Health Behaviors, and Stress in Association with Poor Health," in a June issue of Health Communication.
Segrin also collaborated with Tricia Domschke, doctoral degree candidate in communication, on another study to look further into such details.
The coauthored article, "Social Support, Loneliness, Recuperative Processes, and Their Direct and Indirect Effects on Health," has been accepted for publication also in Health Communication.
Segrin and Domschke found that lonely people did not enjoy leisure activities or get regenerate effects from sleep at a comparable level as others did. So when it came to taking a vacation, getting a good night’s sleep, or going for a swim, lonely people did not get as much of a recharge.
What both studies suggest is that people need not only to take better care of themselves, but learn to nurture relationships.