Loneliness, health and mortality

Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2019 Apr;28(2):234-239. doi: 10.1017/S2045796017000580. Epub 2017 Oct 30.


Aims: Literature suggests an association between loneliness and mortality for both males and females. Yet, the linkage of loneliness to mortality is not thoroughly examined, and need to be replicated with a long follow-up time. This study assessed the association between loneliness and mortality, including associations to gender, in 1363 adult swedes.

Methods: This community-based prospective cohort study from the Swedish Lundby Study included 1363 individuals of whom 296 individuals (21.7%) were identified as lonely with use of semi-structured interviews in 1997. The cohort was followed until 2011 and survival analyses were used to estimate the relative risk of death.

Results: Death occurred with an incidence rate of 2.63 per 100 person-years and 2.09 per 100 person-years for lonely and non-lonely individuals, respectively. In crude analysis, loneliness was associated with a significant increased mortality risk of 27% compared with non-lonely individuals [hazard ratio (HR) 1.27; 95% CI 1.01-1.60]. Unadjusted, lonely females had a significant increased risk (HR 1.76; 95% CI 1.31-2.34) and adjusted insignificant increased mortality risk of 27% (HR 1.27; 95% CI 0.92-1.74), compared with non-lonely females. Lonely males were found to have an adjusted significant decreased risk of mortality (HR 0.50; 95% CI 0.32-0.80), compared with non-lonely males.

Conclusions: Findings suggest an association between loneliness and increased risk of mortality and that gender differences may exist, which have not been previously reported. If replicated, our results indicate that loneliness may have differential physical implications in some subgroups. Future studies are needed to further investigate the influence of gender on the relationship.

Keywords: Community mental health; prospective study; social network; social support.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Social Networking*
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden