(HealthDay News) – Both loneliness and social isolation are associated with mortality, with the link for social isolation independent of demographics, baseline health, and loneliness, according to a study published online March 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Andrew Steptoe, DSc, from University College London, and colleagues assessed the extent to which loneliness mediates the correlation between social isolation and mortality. Social isolation, measured in terms of contact with friends and family and participation in civic organizations, was assessed for 6,500 male and female participants (aged ≥52 years) from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging in 2004–2005. Loneliness was evaluated using a standardized questionnaire. Participants were followed for a mean of 7.25 years, up to March 2012.

The researchers found that more socially isolated and more lonely participants had higher mortality. Social isolation remained significantly associated with mortality even after adjustment for demographic factors and baseline health, while the association for loneliness was not statistically significant. Inclusion of loneliness in the model did not affect the correlation between social isolation and mortality.

“The findings of this study confirm that social isolation is associated with higher mortality in older men and women but indicate that this effect is independent of the emotional experience of loneliness,” the authors write. “Reducing both social isolation and loneliness are important for quality of life and well-being, but efforts to reduce isolation would be likely to have greater benefits in terms of mortality.”

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