How a Lonely Life May Affect Your Cancer Risk

Over the past several years, much research has been conducted on the effects of loneliness on physical health. If a recent report is correct, middle aged men experiencing a lack of companionship could be at greater risk of cancer.

Gauging Risk

This report was authored by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, and involved nearly 2,600 middle-aged male participants. The health of these subjects was tracked and documented for nearly four decades, beginning in the 1980s and continuing to the present day.

Over this prolonged period of time, one in four subjects was eventually diagnosed with some form of cancer, and more than one in ten eventually succumbed to this condition. When reviewing the mortality rates of these participants, the study authors found that mortality risk was noticeably elevated among those who were widowed or divorced. The same correlation was observed among men who had never married.

A Growing Problem

In total, the research team concluded that those leading lonely lives faced a ten percent greater risk of cancer. This connection remained firmly intact even when the subjects’ ages, lifestyles, sleep patterns and body mass indexes were analyzed. Likewise, the study also considered the presence of depression and heart disease symptoms.

In a press release detailing the study’s findings, study author Siiri-Liisi Kraav noted that “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. Our findings support the idea that attention should be paid to this issue.”

Kraav further stated that her team’s work could serve as a stepping stone for future research. “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 us 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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