The lone and the virus:
At the cost of repetition, couples who are kin are generally more fertile than couples who are not, and the way this plays out suggests that the effect is not strictly speaking genetic but has to do with the regulation of genes.

Such gene regulation has been the object of a study which is interesting in its own right.  (Mind and Body ECONOMIST vol. 398 no. 8722 February 26, 2011 page 87 reviewing work by Steven Cole of the University of California, Los Angeles)  It turns out that loneliness is bad for your health, as bad as smoking and drinking. 

It appears that the immune system is not an autonomous agent but fine tunes to the environment, including the social environment.  Since we tend to catch viruses from each other rather than from the environment generally, like we catch bacteria, the presence of others is a clue to the body to ramp up the relevant immune defenses, and this enhanced immunity results in better health.

I admit the logic escapes me.  If we are alone, the body does not prepare for viral attacks.  But we aren’t going to get the viruses anyway, so what difference?  But they have their numbers and so I guess we must believe. 

They do point out one thing.  That is that loneliness is far more common in our present crowded world.  And that may be the key.  More crowded world equals more viruses in circulation but the loneliness of isolation leaves us vulnerable to them.  That is not the logic Dr. Cole follows but rather that modern chronic loneliness is not something evolution ever prepared us for because it didn’t used to happen to a significant degree.  And I can warm up to that one, too.  Evolution never prepared us for the modern limitless gene pool size. 

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