Isolation may reduce risk of obesity-related death, study shows

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The report shows that treating loneliness and isolation can reduce the risk of many diseases.


Treating loneliness and social isolation may put people classified as obese at lower risk of health complications, according to a new study.

Loneliness is overwhelming The finding is important because people with obesity experience it significantly worldwide, the report said.

“To date, dietary and lifestyle factors have been the main focus in preventing obesity-related disease,” said Dr. Lu Gui, lead author of the study published Monday. JAMA Network OpenIn email.

“Our study highlights the importance of taking social and mental health into account in improving the health of people with obesity,” said Qi, professor and interim chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

It examined data from almost 400,000 individuals from the UK BioBank, a large biomedical database and research resource that follows long-term populations.

Those included in the study did not have cardiovascular disease when data collection began. Researchers followed up between March 2006 and November 2021, according to the study.

At that time, the data showed that all-cause mortality among those classified as obese was 36% less than those who felt lonely and socially isolated.

“It is time to integrate social and psychological factors with other dietary and lifestyle factors in the development of intervention strategies to prevent obesity-related complications,” Cui said.

Social isolation was found to be a greater risk factor for all causes of death, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, than depression, anxiety and lifestyle risk factors – which include alcohol, exercise and diet – the study said.

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The results aren't surprising, says Dr. Philip Scherer and Gifford O. in diabetes research at the Touchstone Diabetes Center in Dallas. Touchstone Jr. and Randolph G. said Touchstone Chief Executive Officer. Scherer was not involved in the study.

But the findings “point to improving social isolation as a possible solution to reducing mortality,” he said.

Loneliness is increasingly recognized as a major risk factor for poor health outcomes, even if diet or exercise are sometimes not talked about.

People who felt socially isolated were 32% more likely to die than those who did not June 2023 survey.

“We all feel lonely from time to time, but when that feeling is permanent, it can act as a pattern Chronic stressIt's unhealthy,” said Darhan Conley, a professor of integrative neuroscience in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University in New York. Previous CNN article.

“One way that can happen is through stress hormones adversely affecting the body,” said Conley, who was not involved in the latest research.

The link between loneliness and poor health outcomes may make socially isolated people less likely to seek medical care or engage in other unhealthy habits, such as smoking and drinking, Conley added.

“Maintain a social network like you would any health-promoting activity: exercise regularly, eat well, take care of yourself,” Conley said.

Just because there are so many options to connect with a large online network doesn't mean we'll always be alone, said Rachel Benjamin, a licensed clinical social worker based in New York City.

“As human beings we need to feel known by others – to feel like we belong in the world,” he said.

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Even if someone has a lot of contact with other people, if that person doesn't feel integrated into their community, it's easy to feel lonely and isolated, Benjamin added. And fatphobia can lead to societies making it harder for obese people to feel understood and accepted, she said.

Eliminating bias against them is not something that can be changed by an individual. But there are steps you can take to have more quality relationships, Benjamin said.

What is a quality relationship? It's a place where you can be yourself without the pressure to pretend to be someone you're not, she added.

“Two people can feel that they're both heard, seen, included, and play a little bit,” Benjamin said. “And feel respected by both and be honest about how they feel.”

To get there, she recommends looking inward first. Are there ways to isolate yourself as a source of protection or habit? Then, it's time to start building a new habit: prepare yourself to interact with people regularly.

“Maybe it's embarrassing, but I'm willing to be brave and willing to take a chance,” Benjamin said.

Lastly, don't worry if it takes a while to build solid relationships. Quality connections take time, he added.

“It takes time and work and effort,” he said.

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