Studies: Living alone, feeling lonely may be linked to increased mortality

Bloomberg News reports, “Living to a healthy old age may depend on your ties to family, friends and community, according to research” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine “that finds lonely older adults are more likely to die sooner than their more social peers.”

Another study, also published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “showed that people living alone with heart disease were 25 percent more likely to die from the illness and 27 percent more likely to die of any cause.”

The New York Times “The New Old Age” blog reports that in the first study, investigators “asked 1,604 adults age 60 and older how often they felt isolated or left out, or lacked companionship.”

Participants’ “answers were recorded in 2002 and every two years after through 2008.”

The researchers “lonely older adults also were 45 percent more likely to die than seniors who felt meaningfully connected with others, even after results were adjusted for factors like depression, socioeconomic status and existing health conditions.”

Forbes reports, “The authors of the study recommend that physicians ask their patients about loneliness so that they ‘will be better able to target interventions intended to prevent functional decline and disability.'”

CNN reports that the second “study followed nearly 45,000 people ages 45 and up who had heart disease or a high risk of developing the condition.”

Investigators found that “those who lived alone … were more likely to die from heart attacks, strokes, or other heart complications over a four-year period than people living with family or friends, or in some other communal arrangement.”

The researchers reported that “the risk was highest in middle-aged people, just 14% of whom lived alone.”

MedPage Today reports, “In an accompanying comment, two Yale University researchers cautioned that ‘social support’ – presumably the thing missing from the lonely and the alone – is a squishy concept, especially as a contributor to improved health outcomes.”

The authors of the comment, “Emily Bucholz, MPH, and Harlan Krumholz, MD, SM, of the Yale University School of Medicine, observed that neither of the new studies shed much light on mechanisms by which social support could help people stave off death and disability.”

The studies are available here and here.

This entry was posted in General Health. Bookmark the permalink.