People who are neurotic have a genetic tendency towards loneliness, new research finds.
Neuroticism is a personality trait that indicates a tendency to experience stress and insecurity.
However, loneliness is not just genetic, it is also a result of life circumstances.
In fact, the environment plays a bigger part than genetics — which is good news, because that means it can change.
Lonely people do not have to stay that way, whatever their genetic makeup.
Professor Julie Aitken Schermer, the study’s first author, said:
“If you have rich interactions with people, that’s an environmental component that would combat the genetic impact of loneliness.”
The conclusions come from research on 764 pairs of twins in Australia.
Twins enable researchers to separate out the influence of genetics and the environment on a person.
All were asked about their personality and any loneliness they experienced.
The results showed that people who were neurotic reported feeling more lonely.
In contrast, those who were high in extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness were less likely to experience loneliness.
The authors write:
“The results suggest common genetic and unique environmental factors play a role in personality and loneliness.”
Professor Schermer is worried about the spread of loneliness across society:
“It does concern be me because we’re getting lonelier as a society.
We’re not having the same richness of interaction.”
Professor Schermer sees it in her students:
“They’re all looking at their devices and not interacting with each other.
I always tell my students, ‘Put your stuff down and talk to each other.’
This is the key time to make friends – they already have things in common.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Schermer & Martin, 2019).