News / Health

Study Ties Social Isolation to Increased Risk of Death

Cristina Couto, supervisor at Ironbound Senior Center, pours water for elderly bingo players, Newark, New Jersey, June 21, 2012.
Cristina Couto, supervisor at Ironbound Senior Center, pours water for elderly bingo players, Newark, New Jersey, June 21, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Art Chimes
A new study has found that elderly people who have many social interactions may live longer than those who are more socially isolated.
 
While numerous studies have linked loneliness and social isolation with an increased risk of death, researchers of the new study say loneliness itself isn’t the problem.
 
What’s the difference? According to Professor Andrew Steptoe of University College London, social isolation means limited or no contacts with friends and family, or involvement in clubs or sports.
 
“Loneliness is a more subjective experience to do with a person’s feelings of companionship or feeling left out,” he says.
 
Because there’s a lot of overlap between clinical definitions of loneliness and social isolation, Steptoe and his colleagues wanted to see which factored more significantly into rates of increased mortality.
 
Working with data from a large study of older men and women called the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, Steptoe says they found no significant correlation between higher death risks and loneliness. But upon conducting statistical analysis, he says, his colleagues found "that social isolation was indeed related to higher risk of dying."
 
Aside from the obvious fact that socially active individuals, due to their increased likelihood of being in physical proximity to others, are more likely to survive a life-threatening situation, Steptoe offers some clues about why people with more social contacts are likely to live longer.
 
“Receiving encouragement to do things or not to do things, other people to help you with your medications or take you to the doctor, and things of that sort — which are not so much to do with the emotional side of it as more the practical side — it could be that those are the more important factors here,” he says.
 
Steptoe says research similar to his Britain-based study is underway in other parts of the world, where traditional social patterns are changing.
 
“In many developing countries, of course, people with a rural background are moving into the larger cities, where the social connections are very, very different," he says. "Often it’s the younger people who are moving, leaving older people in the more rural areas, and so these kind of social connections are going to be changed dramatically.”
 
The research by Steptoe and colleagues into the role social isolation plays in higher death risk among the elderly is published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid