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Social Isolation May Contribute to Mortality

Could being lonely increase your risk of death? A recent study suggests that social isolation is associated with a higher risk of death from all causes for all races studied. This includes death from heart disease and for white people, death from cancer.


For this study, researchers examined data from 580,182 people who took part in the Cancer Prevention Study-II, which took place in 1982/1983. All of the participants were followed through 2012, in order to track mortality.


The researchers examined marital status, frequency of religious service attendance and club meetings/group activities, and number of close friends/relatives in order to determine social isolation. They scored each participant on a 5-point isolation scale, with 0 being the least isolated and 5 being the most.


The researchers found that white men and women were more likely than black men and women to be in the least isolated category. They also found that social isolation and all-cause mortality risk were linked over the 30-year follow-up period. The associations were stronger in the first 15 years of follow-up.


When they looked at social isolation and heart disease risk, they found that social isolation score was positively associated in all subgroups. Social isolation score and cancer mortality were linked in white people, but not in black people. Each social isolation component was associated with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality, and all but having fewer close friends/relatives were associated with cancer mortality.


Compared with the least isolated, the most socially isolated black men and women had a more than two times higher risk of death from any cause. The most socially isolated white men and women had 60% and 84% greater risks of death, respectfully.


Researchers from the American Cancer Society led the study. It was published on October 16, 2018, in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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