They found loneliness is catchy with three degrees of separation. So a person's loneliness depended not just on his friend's loneliness but also on his friend's friend and his friend's friend's friend. Participants were 52 percent more likely to be lonely if a person to whom they were directly connected (one degree of separation) was lonely. For two degrees of separation, the number drops to 25 percent and 15 percent for three degrees.
The number of family members had no effect on loneliness scores.
Over time, lonely individuals become lonelier and transmit such feelings to others before severing ties. "People with few friends are more likely to become lonelier over time, which then makes it less likely that they will attract or try to form new social ties," they write. Such friendless individuals ended up on the outskirts of their social networks.
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