In a new study from the University of Eastern Finland, researchers found that loneliness among middle-aged men is associated with an increased risk of cancer.
They suggest that taking account of loneliness and social relationships should thus be an important part of comprehensive health care and disease prevention.
It has been estimated, on the basis of studies carried out in recent years, that loneliness could be as significant a health risk as smoking or overweight.
The study was launched in the 1980s with 2,570 middle-aged men from eastern Finland participating. Their health and mortality have been monitored on the basis of registered data up until the present day.
During the follow-up, 649 men, i.e. 25% of the participants, developed cancer, and 283 men (11%) died of cancer.
Loneliness increased the risk of cancer by about 10%. This association with the risk of cancer was observed regardless of age, socio-economic status, lifestyle, sleep quality, depression symptoms, body mass index, heart disease and their risk factors.
In addition, cancer mortality was higher in cancer patients who were unmarried, widowed or divorced at baseline.
The team says awareness of the health effects of loneliness is constantly increasing.
Therefore, it is important to examine, in more detail, the mechanisms by which loneliness causes adverse health effects.
This information would enable scientists to better alleviate loneliness and the harm caused by it, as well as to find optimal ways to target preventive measures
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The study is published in Psychiatry Research. One author of the study is Siiri-Liisi Kraav.
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