The Framingham Heart Study really is an amazing source of data:

Dr John Cacioppo, head researcher from the department of psychology at Chicago University, said: “We detected an extraordinary pattern of contagion that leads people to be moved to the edge of the social network when they become lonely.

“On the periphery people have fewer friends, yet their loneliness leads them to losing the few ties they have left.

“These reinforcing effects mean that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a yarn that comes loose at the end of a crocheted sweater.

“Because loneliness is associated with a variety of mental and physical diseases that can shorten life it is important for people to recognize loneliness and help those people connect with their social group before the lonely individuals move to the edges.”

For the study the team examined records of about 5,000 people who lived in the Farmingham [sic] area of Massachusetts.

[To the tune of Hank Williams, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” from the album 40 Greatest Hits (Disc 1) (I give it 3 stars). And yes, I was inspired to listen to it by the article.]