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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality A Meta-Analytic Review

From the article, Perspectives on Psychological Science, March 2015  vol. 10 no. 2 227-237

Several lifestyle and environmental factors are risk factors for early mortality, including smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and air pollution. However, in the scientific literature, much less attention has been given to social factors demonstrated to have equivalent or greater influence on mortality risk (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010). Being socially connected is not only influential for psychological and emotional well-being but it also has a significant and positive influence on physical well-being (Uchino, 2006) and overall longevity (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988Shor, Roelfs, & Yogev, 2013). A lack of social connections has also been linked to detrimental health outcomes in previous research. Although the broader protective effect of social relationships is known, in this meta-analytic review, we aim to narrow researchers’ understanding of the evidence in support of increased risk associated with social deficits. Specifically, researchers have assumed that the overall effect of social connections reported previously inversely equates with risk associated with social deficits, but it is presently unclear whether the deleterious effects of social deficits outweigh the salubrious effects of social connections. Currently, no meta-analyses focused on social isolation and loneliness exist in which mortality is the outcome. With efforts underway to identify groups at risk and to intervene to reduce that risk, it is important to understand the relative influence of social isolation and loneliness.

Living alone, having few social network ties, and having infrequent social contact are all markers of social isolation. The common thread across these is an objective quantitative approach to establish a dearth of social contact and network size. Whereas social isolation can be an objectively quantifiable variable, loneliness is a subjective emotional state. Loneliness is the perception of social isolation, or the subjective experience of being lonely, and thus involves necessarily subjective measurement. Loneliness has also been described as the dissatisfaction with the discrepancy between desired and actual social relationships (Peplau & Perlman, 1982).

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March 21, 2015 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , ,

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