The Genetics of Loneliness

Luc Goossens, Eeske van Roekel, Maaike Verhagen, John T. Cacioppo, Stephanie Cacioppo, Marlies Maes, Dorret I. Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As a complex trait, loneliness is likely to be influenced by the interplay of numerous genetic and environmental factors. Studies in behavioral genetics indicate that loneliness has a sizable degree of heritability. Candidate-gene and gene-expression studies have pointed to several genes related to neurotransmitters and the immune system. The notion that these genes are related to loneliness is compatible with the basic tenets of the evolutionary theory of loneliness. Research on gene-environment interactions indicates that social-environmental factors (e.g., low social support) may have a more pronounced effect and lead to higher levels of loneliness if individuals carry the sensitive variant of these candidate genes. Currently, there is no extant research on loneliness based on genome-wide association studies, gene-environment-interaction studies, or studies in epigenetics. Such studies would allow researchers to identify networks of genes that contribute to loneliness. The contribution of genetics to loneliness research will become stronger when genome-wide genetics and epigenetics are integrated and used along with well-established methods in psychology to analyze the complex process of gene-environment interplay.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-226
Number of pages14
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • behavioral genetics
  • evolutionary psychology
  • environment
  • SEROTONIN TRANSPORTER GENE
  • MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
  • POLYGENIC RISK SCORES
  • PSYCHIATRIC-ILLNESS
  • RECEPTOR GENE
  • ELDERLY MALES
  • ENVIRONMENTAL CONTRIBUTIONS
  • ADOLESCENT LONELINESS
  • PARENTAL SUPPORT
  • HUMAN-BEHAVIOR

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  • Cite this

    Goossens, L., van Roekel, E., Verhagen, M., Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., Maes, M., & Boomsma, D. I. (2015). The Genetics of Loneliness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 213-226. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614564878