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Association of Loneliness and Wisdom With Gut Microbial Diversity and Composition: An Exploratory Study.


Loneliness and wisdom have opposite effects on health and well-being. Loneliness is a serious public health problem associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Wisdom is associated with better health and well-being. We have consistently found a strong negative correlation between loneliness and wisdom. The present study aimed to investigate the association of loneliness and wisdom with the gut microbiome. One hundred eighty-four community-dwelling adults (28-97 years) completed validated self-report-based measures of loneliness, wisdom, compassion, social support, and social engagement. Fecal samples were collected and profiled using 16S rRNA sequencing. Linear regression analyses, controlling for age and body mass index, revealed that lower levels of loneliness and higher levels of wisdom, compassion, social support, and social engagement were associated with greater phylogenetic richness and diversity of the gut microbiome. Partial least squares (PLS) analysis to investigate multivariate relationships extracted two composite variables. Linear regression model predicting alpha-diversity with PLS components revealed that a linear combination of all psychosocial predictors (with negative loading for loneliness and positive loadings for all others, including wisdom, compassion, social support, and social engagement) was significantly associated with alpha-diversity. For beta-diversity, compassion and wisdom accounted for a significant proportion of variance in overall microbial community composition. Findings may have implications for interventions to reduce loneliness and possibly its health-related adverse consequences. Future research should explore whether increasing compassion and wisdom may improve loneliness and overall well-being as well as microbial diversity.

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