Longevity and loneliness

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A note for Lesson no. 5, "Your Brain Secretly Works With Other Brains," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 86‌ is:

We may be healthier and live longer if we have close relationships, but we also get sick and die earlier when we persistently feel lonely....

To understand the link between loneliness and illness, researchers compiled a statistical summary findings from 70 studies, called a meta-analysis. The analysis combined data from over 3.4 million people who took part in longitudinal studies to examine the effect of perceived loneliness, living alone, and social isolation on mortality. On average, test subjects were 66 years old when their study began, but some samples included middle-aged adults as well. The studies ranged in duration but lasted, on average, 7 years.

On average (adjusting for age, gender and other demographics), people were 29% more likely to die within the study period if they were socially isolated, 32% more likely to die if they lived alone, and 26% more likely die if they experienced loneliness. (When adjusting only for age and gender, the odds of dying earlier rose to about 50%, and the unadjusted data suggest that people who were socially isolated were 83% more likely to die within the study period.) Loneliness and living alone posed a greater risk for middle-age adults than in older adults.[1]

Many other studies have replicated the link between loneliness and illness, or loneliness and earlier death, particularly in older adults.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

For a review, see these references.[9][10][11]

See also


  1. Holt-Lunstad, Julianne, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, and David Stephenson. 2015. "Loneliness and Social Isolation As Risk Factors for Mortality: a Meta-Analytic Review." Perspectives on Psychological Science 10 (2): 227–237.
  2. Perissinotto, Carla M, Irena Stijacic Cenzer, and Kenneth E Covinsky. 2012. "Loneliness in older persons: a predictor of functional decline and death."  Archives of Internal Medicine 172 (14): 1078–1084.
  3. Hakulinen, Christian, Laura Pulkki-Råback, Marianna Virtanen, Markus Jokela, Mika Kivimäki, and Marko Elovainio. 2018. "Social Isolation and Loneliness As Risk Factors for Myocardial Infarction, Stroke and Mortality: UK Biobank Cohort Study of 479,054 Men and Women." Heart 104 (18): 1536–1542.
  4. Jaremka, Lisa M., Rebecca R. Andridge, Christopher P. Fagundes, Catherine M. Alfano, Stephen P. Povoski, Adele M. Lipari, Doreen M. Agnese et al. 2014. "Pain, Depression, and Fatigue: Loneliness As a Longitudinal Risk Factor." Health Psychology 33 (9): 948.
  5. Holwerda, Tjalling Jan, Dorly JH Deeg, Aartjan TF Beekman, Theo G. van Tilburg, Max L. Stek, Cees Jonker, and Robert A. Schoevers. 2014. "Feelings of Loneliness, But Not Social Isolation, Predict Dementia Onset: Results From the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL)." Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 85 (2): 135–142.
  6. Valtorta, Nicole K., Mona Kanaan, Simon Gilbody, and Barbara Hanratty. 2018. "Loneliness, Social Isolation and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing." European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 25 (13): 1387–1396.
  7. Teguo, Maturin Tabue, Nadine Simo-Tabue, Ralitsa Stoykova, Céline Meillon, Mélanie Cogne, Hélène Amiéva, and Jean-François Dartigues. 2016. "Feelings of Loneliness and Living Alone As Predictors of Mortality in the Elderly: The PAQUID Study." Psychosomatic Medicine 78 (8): 904–909.
  8. Hämmig, Oliver. 2019. "Health Risks Associated With Social Isolation in General and in Young, Middle and Old Age." PloS One 14 (7): e0219663.
  9. Slavich, George M. 2020. "Social Safety Theory: A Biologically Based Evolutionary Perspective on Life Stress, Health, and Behavior." Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 16: 19.1–19.31.
  10. Bhatti, Adnan Bashir, and Anwar ul Haq. 2017. "The Pathophysiology of Perceived Social Isolation: Effects on Health and Mortality." Cureus 9 (1).
  11. Leigh-Hunt, Nicholas, D. Bagguley, K. Bash, V. Turner, S. Turnbull, N. Valtorta, and W. Caan. 2017. "An Overview of Systematic Reviews on the Public Health Consequences of Social Isolation and Loneliness." Public Health 152: 157–171.