Loneliness can spread like the fluAre you feeling sad and lonely? Then get the hell away from us!

According to a new study, loneliness is contagious, just like the flu.

Apparently, lonely people can transmit their sad feelings to those around them, thereby alienating their remaining friends, who also become lonely. The study showed that as people become lonely, they lose trust in others, creating a vicious cycle of loneliness that makes it harder for them to make new friends.

University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo, whom Reuters describes as a "leading U.S. expert on loneliness," told the news wire that loneliness is associated with mental and physical diseases that can shorten life. He added that societies seem to develop a natural tendency to shed these lonely people, making it all the more crucial to deal with loneliness before it spreads.

The team behind the study examined records of the Framingham Heart Study, which studied the risks of cardiovascular disease for over 5,000 people since 1948 and recently added another 5,000. (We can't help but wonder if they also attended a few Smiths concerts as part of their research.)

The issue is more pressing than ever given the large numbers of laid-off workers who no longer have exposure to the camaraderie that workplaces can provide. Divine Caroline offers this article explaining how the 14 million unemployed Americans can combat loneliness in their daily lives -- and stop spreading their sad-bastard germs to the rest of us.