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April 3, 2023

Study: Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors

By Julianne Holt-Lunstad, et al, Brigham Young University

A substantial body of research has…elucidated the psychological, behavioral, and biological pathways by which social isolation and loneliness leads to poorer health and decreased longevity.


Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality. The objective of this meta-analytic review is to establish the overall and relative magnitude of social isolation and loneliness and examine possible moderators. A literature search of studies (January 1980 to February 2014) was conducted using MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Social Work Abstracts, and Google Scholar. The included studies provide quantitative data on mortality as affected by loneliness, social isolation, or living alone. Across studies that statistically controlled for a variety of possible confounds, the independent random effects weighted average effect sizes for social isolation OR = 1.29, loneliness OR = 1.26 and living alone OR = 1.32, corresponding to an average of 29%, 26%, and 32% increased likelihood of mortality respectively. We found no differences between measures of objective and subjective social isolation. Results remained consistent across gender, length of follow-up, and world region, but initial health status influenced the findings. Results also differed across participant age, with social deficits being more predictive of death in samples with an average age younger than 65 years. Overall, the influence of both objective and subjective social isolation on risk for mortality is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality.

Download the pdf

Original Publication Citation

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 227-237.

BYU ScholarsArchive Citation

Holt-Lunstad, Julianne; Smith, Timothy B.; Baker, Mark; Harris, Tyler; and Stephenson, David, “Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review” (2015). Faculty Publications. 1996.

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