Study Supports Evidence that Isolation & Loneliness Could Cause Poor Health

There are many factors which may contribute to our longevity.  Recently, a study took a closer look at the impact of regular social interaction with family and friends on how long a person lives.  Researchers analyzed records for roughly half a million UK patients and found people who had more social interactions were more likely to live longer.

Social connections are important at all phases of life and can impact emotional, physical and behavioral aspects of daily living.  To get a clearer picture of how social interactions affect health as people age, they identified both functional and structural types of interactions.

Functional components of social connection assessed were:

  • frequency of ability to confide in someone close
  • often feeling lonely

Structural components of social connection assessed were:

  • frequency of friends/family visits
  • weekly group activities
  • living alone

The researchers then explored how these factors were associated with all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality.  Participants were followed for about 12 years.  They established four research questions to guide their analysis.

  • What is the strength of the association between functional measures of social connection and mortality and to determine if there is an interaction between these measures.
  • What is the strength of the association between structural measures of social connection and mortality and to determine of there is an interaction between these measures.
  • What is the pattern of the combined association between measures of social connection and mortality?
  • Is there an interaction between functional and structural components of social connection for mortality?

Data was taken from the UK Biobank study which involved 502,536 participants who visited an assessment center in England, Scotland, or Wales to complete a questionnaire and nurse-led interview and have physical measurements taken between 2006-2010.   This data was linked to national mortality registers for both all-cause and CVD mortality.  Baseline data collected included sex, ethnicity, smoking status, alcohol intake, and self-reported physical activity levels and long-term conditions.

Researchers began by examining the association between each functional component and health outcomes separately.  Then, they explored the combined association of both component measures and health outcomes.

They repeated the process with the structural components, separately, then joint associations, and all structural components combined.  Researchers then assessed the combined effect of functional and structural components together.

Lastly, to reduce the chance that pre-existing conditions would skew the results, they removed participants who reported CVD or cancer at baseline or who passed within the first 2 years of the study and replicated the study without those records.

Their results were quite interesting.  Here are a few key findings:  

  • Each of the components studied was independently associated with all-cause and CVD mortality.
  • Friends and family visits less than monthly are associated with higher all-cause and CVD mortality.
  • Never having friends and family visit was associated with the highest all-cause and CVD mortality of any of the measures examined. They also noted that a visit even once every 3 months was associated with a noticeable lower mortality than no visits at all, suggesting even small changes could have significant impact.
  • The independent association between living alone and mortality suggests there may be high risks for living alone.
  • Risks for those with no friends or family contacts combined with living alone were higher regardless of functional isolation or group activity. Researchers note this could suggest a hierarchy of components with connections with friends and family and living alone potentially having a greater impact than other factors.

Researchers propose a few reasons that not having friends or family visit and living alone could be related to higher risks.  Personal visits compared to a weekly group may be stronger relationships.  Also, these personal visits may provide practical support or be able to detect more subtle changes in health of an individual.  They point out that while weekly group activities may be beneficial, they are not a replacement for visits from friends and family or living with another person.

Good health is much more than simply the physical statistics.  It involves mental, emotional and social aspects as well.  It is important to consider the whole person, including social connections when addressing health issues and aging.

Chiropractic care is effective in helping improve a person’s function, mobility, and flexibility.  With their advanced understanding of the musculoskeletal system, chiropractors can help guide patients through health choices such as physical activities, throughout life.  When injury or another condition does occur, the chiropractor can help identify the root cause, offer treatment (or referral to another provider when needed) and also help the patient with rehabilitative activities to prevent reoccurrence.  In turn, this can enable them to pursue the activities they enjoy with the people they love most.

Additionally, when a person is active, they can then visit those who may not be as mobile.  Whether it’s helping with tasks around the house, delivering groceries and meals, or a purely social visit, visiting with our loved ones is a great opportunity to help others while taking care of their own health at the same time.

To find a TCA Member chiropractic physician near you, or to learn more about how chiropractic care can help you address your own health issues, visit



Foster, H.M.E., Gill, J.M.R., Mair, F.S. et al. Social connection and mortality in UK Biobank: a prospective cohort analysis. BMC Med 21, 384 (2023).