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Contribution of risk factors to excess mortality in isolated and lonely individuals: an analysis of data from the UK Biobank cohort study

Elovainio, M; Hakulinen, C; Pulkki-Råback, L; Virtanen, M; Josefsson, K; Jokela, M; Vahtera, J; (2017) Contribution of risk factors to excess mortality in isolated and lonely individuals: an analysis of data from the UK Biobank cohort study. The Lancet Public Health , 2 (6) e260-e266. 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30075-0. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The associations of social isolation and loneliness with premature mortality are well known, but the risk factors linking them remain unclear. We sought to identify risk factors that might explain the increased mortality in socially isolated and lonely individuals. METHODS: We used prospective follow-up data from the UK Biobank cohort study to assess self-reported isolation (a three-item scale) and loneliness (two questions). The main outcomes were all-cause and cause-specific mortality. We calculated the percentage of excess risk mediated by risk factors to assess the extent to which the associations of social isolation and loneliness with mortality were attributable to differences between isolated and lonely individuals and others in biological (body-mass index, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and handgrip strength), behavioural (smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity), socioeconomic (education, neighbourhood deprivation, and household income), and psychological (depressive symptoms and cognitive capacity) risk factors. FINDINGS: 466 901 men and women (mean age at baseline 56·5 years [SD 8·1]) were included in the analyses, with a mean follow-up of 6·5 years (SD 0·8). The hazard ratio for all-cause mortality for social isolation compared with no social isolation was 1·73 (95% CI 1·65–1·82) after adjustment for age, sex, ethnic origin, and chronic disease (ie, minimally adjusted), and was 1·26 (95% CI 1·20–1·33) after further adjustment for socioeconomic factors, health-related behaviours, depressive symptoms, biological factors, cognitive performance, and self-rated health (ie, fully adjusted). The minimally adjusted hazard ratio for mortality risk related to loneliness was 1·38 (95% CI 1·30–1·47), which reduced to 0·99 (95% CI 0·93–1·06) after full adjustment for baseline risks. INTERPRETATION: Isolated and lonely people are at increased risk of death. Health policies addressing risk factors such as adverse socioeconomic conditions, unhealthy lifestyle, and lower mental wellbeing might reduce excess mortality among the isolated and the lonely. FUNDING: Academy of Finland, NordForsk, and the UK Medical Research Council

Type: Article
Title: Contribution of risk factors to excess mortality in isolated and lonely individuals: an analysis of data from the UK Biobank cohort study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30075-0
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30075-0
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1558456
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