sad woman sitting alone in the forest

What are the effects of social isolation?

Lack of interpersonal connections can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. In previous studies, social isolation has been linked to higher mortality, mostly in white adults, but it is unclear whether the same is true for other races. Researchers from the American Cancer Society evaluated whether associations of social isolation with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality differed by race and sex.

White men and white women were more likely to be in the least isolated group than black men and women.

For this study, the researchers followed 580,182 adults enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study II in 1982/1983. They were followed for mortality throughout 2012. The researchers weighted several standards of social isolation such as marital status, the frequency of religious service attendance and club meetings/group activities, as well as the number of close friends/relatives. They gave a score of 0 for least isolated or 1 for most isolated on each of these factors on a five-point isolation scale.

The researchers found that social isolation was associated with all-cause mortality in all subgroups as well as for heart disease (CVD) mortality. However, while there was a positive association between social isolation score and cancer mortality among white men and white women, there was no association between social isolation score and cancer mortality among black men or black women. A positive dose-response relationship was found between social isolation and all-cause mortality risk over the 30-year follow-up period, but the associations were significantly stronger in the first 15 years of follow-up. Overall, race seemed to be a strong predictor of social isolation than sex — white men and white women were more likely to be in the least isolated group than black men and women. The most socially isolated black men and women had a 2-fold higher risk of death from any cause than the least isolated, and white men and women had 60 per cent and 84 per cent greater risks of death compared to the least isolated.

The findings of this study indicate that social isolation is an important predictor of mortality risk among men and women, despite their race. A lack of interpersonal relationships and connections has a detrimental effect on your health and addressing it as a major risk factor helps to develop effective clinical care with a holistic approach.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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