In the research, both social isolation and feelings of loneliness were identified as factors increasing the risk of a premature death. Loneliness was also linked to factors such as health issues, smoking, alcohol abuse, socioeconomic problems and symptoms of depression, all of which contribute to the risk of untimely death. Incidentally, isolation and loneliness were found to have a particularly strong connection to cancer mortality.
Ultimately, a correlation between loneliness and the risk of premature death was found to be applicable to men and women, the youth and the elderly, long-term illness sufferers and healthy people, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.
"Society should direct more attention to the prevention of loneliness and especially isolation. This can be influenced, among other things, via activities that unite the social community," Professor Marko Elovainio, who had led the survey, told the Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet.
Loneliness was previously characterized as a real problem faced by all age groups by former Finnish President Tarja Halonen and has since gained considerable attention in the media and in scientific circles.
A previous study by the University of Turku found loneliness to affect people's physical and mental health, triggering the emergence or exacerbation of mental and somatic diseases and limiting one's performance. Overall, loneliness explained 57 percent of the men's and 54 percent of the women's health and psychosocial problems and 69 percent of the men's and 59 percent of the women's self-reported health issues.
Yet another report associated living alone with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or the specific cause of death.
The recent report was financed by the Academy of Finland, the Scandinavian research board NordForsk and the UK Medical Research Council. In the study, 466,901 men and women were included, with a mean follow-up of 6.5 years. Apart from the THL, the Universities of Turku and Helsinki and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health contributed.
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