The Health Implications of Social Isolation

The Health Implications of Social Isolation
Dr. Benyamin Mansoori
Dr. Benyamin Mansoori

Advance Diploma in General Dermatology
Diploma of Cosmetic Medicine

The Health Implications of Social Isolation

People living in social isolation often lack regular interactions with others and may predominantly live alone. Recent data reveals that approximately 19% of elderly Australians experience this kind of isolation.

A staggering figure suggests that loneliness affects over five million Australians. Globally, countries such as the UK are proactively introducing measures to tackle the escalating “loneliness epidemic”, which depicts an increasing number of individuals feeling more isolated and lonely than before. The pivotal questions arise: How detrimental is the sensation of loneliness, and to what extent are its effects influenced by personal perceptions?

In a comprehensive study, researchers delved into these intertwined subjects, investigating their respective and combined impacts on life expectancy.

The review of current literature led to the identification of 90 significant articles exploring the ties between social isolation, loneliness, and various health outcomes, representing over two million individuals.

These studies encompassed diverse topics, with some probing into the specific relationship between loneliness and severe health conditions such as heart disease or cancer. A considerable portion (29) of these studies came from the US, yet the data set provided a broad representation of countries, primarily those at a development level akin to Australia.

From the data, the team deduced that both factors – social isolation and feelings of loneliness – were associated with an increased risk of mortality from all causes and notably, cancer.

Moreover, individuals experiencing social isolation presented a higher likelihood of succumbing to cardiovascular diseases. However, understanding the nuanced relationship between social isolation and loneliness proved somewhat elusive.

While certain studies indicate a potential compounded effect of these conditions on health, this correlation wasn’t universally observed. Notably, the repercussions of isolation and loneliness appeared prevalent across all genders. Yet, it’s essential to recognize that men and women often have distinct perspectives on loneliness and their social interactions. Women, for instance, tend to be more vulnerable to feelings of loneliness, even though they usually maintain broader social networks compared to their male counterparts.

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