Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Its risk factors are being studied intensively. However, little is known about the influence of psycho-social factors on its development.
Scientists have previously linked loneliness and social isolation to cancer risk factors such as obesity and smoking. Cancer develops more often in people who are affected by factors such as stress, depression and lack of social support. Life without a partner is associated with the diagnosis of advanced cancer.
In a new research paper, Finnish scientists focused on the relationship between cancer risk and social isolation (an objective lack of social contact with others) and loneliness (subjective feeling). The study began in the 1980s and involved 2,570 middle-aged Finns. Scientists have monitored their health until now, monitoring data from case histories.
During the observation period, cancer developed in about 25% of the study participants, and 11% died from oncological pathologies.
Loneliness has been associated with an approximately 10% increase in cancer risk. This connection persisted, regardless of social status, lifestyle, heart disease. Cancer mortality was higher in people who were unmarried, widowed, or divorced at the start of the study.
“Awareness of the health effects of loneliness is growing steadily. Therefore, it is important to study it in detail, including the mechanisms that are responsible for its pathological effects. This will enable you to better cope with the harmful effects of loneliness, as well as find targets for preventive interventions, ”said Professor Siiri-Liisi Kraav of the University of Eastern Finland, co-author of the new study.