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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Loneliness as a risk factor for mortality and morbidity Patterson, Andrew C

Abstract

Studies over the past couple of decades have depicted loneliness as a significant concern to physical health, although its meaning for overall health outcomes is still unclear. The precise impact of loneliness on life expectancy and on specific disease processes remains unknown. With regression modeling techniques, this thesis uses data from the Alameda County Health and Ways of Living Study to characterize the impact of loneliness on self-rated health, mortality, and fatalities from specific diseases. A key hypothesis is that loneliness as a health problem hinges on its persistence over time. This hypothesis is also tested by examining the reliability of the loneliness measure across the full 34 years of the survey. A second test is to examine its interplay with marital status as a mutable social circumstance. Results show that loneliness is a risk factor for poor self-rated health, non-ischemic cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, infections, and overall mortality. Results also show that loneliness need not be a stable problem across the life span in order to pose health risks. The reliability of the loneliness measure fades across time and levels of loneliness also vary with changes in marital status. Loneliness did not clearly mediate the impact of marital status on self-rated health, mortality, or specific causes of death.

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