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Approved research

Social isolation and loneliness in relation to cardiovascular and cancer morbidity and mortality

Principal Investigator: Dr Sarah Floud
Approved Research ID: 28946
Approval date: August 15th 2017

Lay summary

Social isolation and loneliness may increase risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. However, previous studies are limited by possible bias from small samples, confounding, and reverse causation. There is limited evidence on associations with cancer. How these social exposures affect disease physiology also remains uncertain. Our research will examine whether social isolation and loneliness are: 1) associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer outcomes after accounting for age, socio-economic status, lifestyle factors, comorbidities, self-rated health, and disability; 2) associated with biological markers of disease risk, and if these markers mediate any effects on disease. Social isolation has been identified by the UK government as a target for public health intervention. The findings of this research will inform the design of such public health interventions aimed at preventing any harmful health effects of social isolation and loneliness. The findings will also be useful to health care providers for identifying vulnerable groups at increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. UK Biobank participants completed detailed surveys including questions about social relationships and loneliness. They also provided blood and urine samples and permitted access to their hospital, death and cancer records. We will compare risks of developing or dying from heart disease, stroke, and cancer among participants who were and were not socially isolated or lonely, after taking into account age, health, wealth, and lifestyle factors. Comparing the blood and urine test results of these participants, we will investigate how social isolation and loneliness affect biological processes related to heart disease, stroke and cancer. Full cohort (baseline and repeat assessment) will be included.