The scientists used data from 458,146 adults (UK Biobank) with an average age of 56.5 years to investigate possible links between death and five types of social interactions. These were: how often were they able to confide in someone close to them, how often did they feel lonely, how often were they visited by friends and family, how often did they participate in weekly group activities, and finally, whether they lived alone or not. After a follow-up of 12.6 years, 33,135 people had died.
The researchers discovered the strongest link between a (lack of) social interaction and death among people who were never visited by friends and family. For this group of people, the risk of death increased by 39 percent. Striking: even participation in weekly group activities could not offset the increase. People who were visited at least once a month showed a positive effect of this social interaction, a protective effect, as it were.
In the study, the researchers recommend further research into other forms of social interactions and into how much change is needed per type of interaction to help socially isolated people.