Social isolation and loneliness could worsen the health of those with obesity

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

Obesity is linked to an increased risk of death from any cause, but the effect is worse if you’re feeling lonely and socially isolated, according to international researchers. The team used data from the UK Biobank which included 398,972 participants, and found as the index of social isolation and loneliness went from highest to lowest, the risk of death from all causes decreased by 36% in people with obesity, compared to 9% in people without obesity. The team found social isolation to be more important than loneliness, depression, anxiety, and lifestyle-related risk factors including alcohol, exercise, and a healthy diet. There may be many reasons for this, according to the team, who say lack of social support may worsen health-risk behaviours, encourage inactivity and unhealthy diets. Lack of social contacts may also mean people don’t have friends to encourage them to seek medical attention when they need it, the team adds.

Journal/conference: JAMA Network Open

Link to research (DOI): 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.52824

Organisation/s: Tulane University, USA

Funder: The study was supported by grants HL071981, HL034594, and HL126024 from the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; grants DK115679, DK091718, DK100383, and DK078616 from the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and grant 2P20GM109036-06A1 (Sub-Project ID 7233)
from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection,
management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and
decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Media release

From: JAMA

Improvement of Social Isolation and Loneliness and Excess Mortality Risk in People With Obesity

About The Study: The findings of this study of 398,000 UK Biobank participants support the improvement of social isolation and loneliness in people with obesity to decrease obesity-related excess risk of mortality.


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