Associations between loneliness and acute hospitalisation outcomes among patients receiving mental healthcare in South London: a retrospective cohort study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2022 Feb;57(2):397-410. doi: 10.1007/s00127-021-02079-9. Epub 2021 Apr 20.


Purpose: It is well known that loneliness can worsen physical and mental health outcomes, but there is a dearth of research on the impact of loneliness in populations receiving mental healthcare. This study aimed to investigate cross-sectional correlates of loneliness among such patients and longitudinal risk for acute general hospitalisations.

Method: A retrospective observational study was conducted on the data from patients aged 18 + receiving assessment/care at a large mental healthcare provider in South London. Recorded loneliness status was ascertained among active patients on the index date, 30th Jun 2012. Acute general hospitalisation (emergency/elective) outcomes were obtained until 31st Mar 2018. Length of stay was modelled using Poisson regression models and time-to hospitalisation and time-to mortality were modelled using Cox proportional hazards regression models.

Results: The data from 26,745 patients were analysed. The prevalence of patients with recorded loneliness was 16.4% at the index date. In the fully adjusted model, patients with recorded loneliness had higher hazards of emergency (HR 1.15, 95% CI 1.09-1.22) and elective (1.05, 1.01-1.12) hospitalisation than patients who were not recorded as lonely, and a longer duration of both emergency (IRR 1.06, 95% CI 1.05-1.07) and elective (1.02, 1.01-1.03) general hospitalisations. There was no association between loneliness and mortality. Correlates of loneliness included having an eating disorder (OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.29-2.25) and serious mental illnesses (OR 1.44, 1.29-1.62).

Conclusion: Loneliness in patients receiving mental healthcare is associated with higher use of general hospital services. Increased attention to the physical healthcare of this patient group is therefore warranted.

Keywords: Emergency admission; Hospitalisation; Loneliness; Mental health; Physical health.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • London / epidemiology
  • Loneliness*
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Retrospective Studies