Kids are affection junkies who crave it even when they’re sick. And that close contact means they get parents sick (because nobody feels great about shutting down their spawn). But new research from the American Psychological Association that looks at the impact of loneliness on cold symptoms raises a new theory: children can be the cause and the remedy.
The study, published in the APA journal Health Psychology, recruited 159 unmarried people ages 18 to 55, more than half of which were men. Why unmarried? Because researchers wanted to look at lonely people, and married couples sometimes have conversations on the toilet. Subjects were given psychological and physical assessments which were scored on the Short Loneliness Scale and the Network Social Index. Then researchers gave them cold-inducing nasal drops and quarantined them for 5 days in hotel rooms.
The subjects were monitored for 5 days, and only 75 percent contracted a cold. The other 25 percent presumably spent the 5 days eating hundreds of dollars worth of mini bar cashews. Of those who got sick, people who felt isolated were just as likely to get sick as those who did not feel lonely. However, the lonelier people reported feeling, the worse they said their cold symptoms were.
While a week of isolation in a hotel might seem like a vacation to many parents — stuffy nose or not — never being left alone may be the key to feeling better. This study echoes past research that shows how loneliness can increase the risk of disease and early death, but it’s one of the first to look at acute, but temporary, illness. Kids may not exactly be the cure for a common cold, but if being lonely makes it suck more, problem solved. It’s only fair since they started it.