Social isolation identified as a predictor of mortality comparable to traditional clinical risk factors

Data on 16,849 adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Index was used to examine the relationship among social support variables and mortality risk. Findings indicated that socially isolated men and women had worse adjusted survival curves than less socially isolated individuals. Among men, social predictors included being unmarried, participating infrequently in religious activities, and lacking club/organization affiliations. Among women, social predictors included being unmarried, infrequent social contact, and participating infrequently in religious activities. The authors concluded that, “Our results clarify the relationship between social isolation and mortality. Of particular importance, this relationship was found in a well-powered study with a national sample representative of the US civilian non-institutionalized population. Given that the relationship remained robust after a variety of sensitivity analyses, the power of isolation as a marker of poor health cannot be ignored. Our findings highlight the value of isolation as a risk factor for mortality and emphasize the clinical importance of understanding a patient’s social integration and support” (p. 2061)

Reference: Pantell, M. Rehkopf, D., Jutte, D., Syme, L., Balmes, J., & Adler, N. (2013). Social isolation: A predictor of mortality comparable to traditional clinical risk factors. American Journal of Public Health, 103(11), 2056-2062

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