For a man, living alone for several years and/or experiencing serial breakups would be associated with high levels of inflammatory markers in the blood. This is at least what emerges from a new scientific study, published on January 10, 2022 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health (Source 1).
The team of Danish researchers relied here on data from 4,835 participants from the Biobank Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB). All were between 48 and 62 years old. The team obtained breakup information for 4,612 people (3,170 men and 1,442 women), and information on the number of years lived alone for 4,835 (3,336 men and 1,499 women) for the period 1986 to 2011. Concerning celibacy, the participants were divided into three groups: less than a year living alone (reference group), 2 to 6 years, and 7 years or more. Possible bias factors (age, level of education, weight, medication, traumatic or difficult events, personality) were annotated and taken into account.
Verdict: in men, higher levels of inflammatory markers (interleukin 6, or IL-6, and C-reactive protein, or CRP) were obtained in those who had experienced the most emotional breakups. They had 17% higher levels of inflammatory markers than the reference group, having lived very little alone. Similarly, levels of inflammatory markers were up to 12% higher in the group that had spent the most years living alone (7 years or more). Note that no such association was observed in women, although the sample numbered only 1,499.
Although the inflammation was classified as “low grade”, it was found to be persistent and “most likely indicates an increased risk of poor health and age-related death”, believe the researchers. “Inflammation levels in our study are low, but they are also significant, clinically relevant and most likely a risk factor for increased mortality”, they point out in a press release (Source 2), adding that there is “a notable number of people living with low-level inflammation”.
For the researchers, men would be even more likely to externalize their sadness, for example by increasing their consumption of alcohol or junk food, where women would be more internalized, via depressive symptoms for example. This is at least their hypothesis to explain why celibacy and serial breakups are synonymous with inflammation in men and not in women.