Loneliness is not just an excruciating feeling that can lead to other mental health problems, it can actually be a cause of premature death. While loneliness can affect anyone at any point in life, it is particularly common among the rapidly increasing population of old people. When you read stories about how many old people live alone and say the television is their main company, you realize that tackling loneliness is one of the greatest challenges facing our society.

Now a new study in humans and rhesus macaques suggests that loneliness is associated with inflammation of the brain. This is potentially a very important finding, but it is important not to jump to conclusions. Understanding the biological response to a condition like loneliness should lead to a more holistic understanding of mental health problems rather than a knee-jerk medicalized solution like a quick-fix drug.

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