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Social isolation can seriously affect people with obesity, study finds

Those who are obese are more likely to be socially isolated, and that social isolation can make people more likely to die early, a study says.
Social isolation can seriously affect people with obesity, study finds
Posted at 12:21 PM, Feb 09, 2024

Obesity has long been associated with numerous physical health effects, including heart disease and cancer, but a new study says social isolation might be one of the worst effects from being obese. 

A new study published by researchers at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine says those with obesity experience markedly higher levels of social isolation and loneliness than those without obesity. 

The study followed a population of 400,000 without cancer or cardiovascular disease and found that as people who were obese became less isolated, their chances of death dropped. 

For instance, participants who were not obese and who were the least socially isolated had the lowest risk for death, while those with obesity and were most socially isolated had the highest risk. The study also showed that those with obesity who were least socially isolated were less likely to die than those who were not obese who were moderately socially isolated. 

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"Social isolation ranked higher than loneliness, depression, anxiety, and lifestyle-related risk factors for estimating the risk of mortality," the study said.

Researchers distinguished social isolation from loneliness by the "amount of social interaction observed in behavior, while loneliness typically pertains to emotional experiences linked to social relationships’ quality"

The study followed participants for over 12 years. 

“It is the time to integrate social and psychological factors into other dietary and lifestyle factors in the development of intervention strategies for preventing obesity related complications,” Lu Qi, interim chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Tulane, said in a press release.


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