a 2007 study (ref. 2) showed that loneliness has an effect on the immune system: it increases genetic activity related to inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease and cancer; and it reduces antibody production and antiviral responses, protective against health risks.
Many with a medical illness seek comrades on similar journeys. Psychotherapy and support groups, internet chat rooms and blogs are all ways of connecting with one's illness companions. Says one patient of his MS psychotherapy group: "they're my brethren". Despite the fact that his group is not heterogeneous (the degree of impairment ranges dramatically among members) he discovers they have a common ground — and a common enemy — uniting them. The group provides health-enhancing strength and a safe space where members can speak their fears aloud: progression, burdening others, challenging relationships, role shifts, financial and career anxieties. They bolster each other with coping tools. When one member has a relapse, they rally around their comrade and find comfort in each other.