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LONELY people become increasingly self-centred in a vicious cycle that makes their loneliness worse, a study found.

Researchers discovered that highly self-centred people who focus only on their own thoughts and feelings are more likely to end up socially isolated.

John Cacioppo, of the University of Chicago, led a study of 229 people aged between 50 and 68 in which they were asked to rate their level of social interaction on a scale of one to four against statements such as ‘I lack companionship’ or ‘There are people I can talk to.’

Self-centredness was assessed in a similar way with statements that included ‘I can sometimes be a little self-centred’ and ‘I think about myself a lot’.

The researchers found that an increase in self-centred feelings led to higher loneliness, and vice versa.

Writing in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, they said self-centredness is ‘a significant factor’ in loneliness and should be targeted by health professionals treating patients affected by social isolation.

Dr Cacioppo said: ‘If you get more self-centred, you run the risk of staying locked in to feeling socially isolated.’

© Daily Mail