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Publication Detail
Are a lack social relationships and cigarette smoking really equally powerful predictors of mortality? Analyses of data from two cohort studies
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Article
  • Authors:
    Batty GD, Zaninotto P, Elovainio MJ, Hakulinen CA
  • Publication date:
    01/11/2021
  • Journal:
    Public Health in Practice
  • Volume:
    2
  • Status:
    Published
Abstract
Objective: The suggestion from cross-review comparison that lower levels of social integration (social isolation, loneliness) and cigarette smoking are equally powerful predictors of premature mortality has been promulgated by policy organisations and widely reported in the media. For the first time, we examined this assertion by simultaneously comparing these associations using data from two large cohort studies. Study design: Individual-participant analyses of two large prospective cohort studies. Methods: Participants in UK Biobank and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing reported loneliness, social-isolation and smoking behaviours using standard scales at baseline. Cause-specific mortality was ascertained via linkage to national registries. We used Cox regression analyses to compute a relative index of inequality to summarise the relation between these baseline characteristics and mortality experience. Results: Mean age at baseline was 56.5 years in the 466,876 (273,452 women) Biobank participants and 66.1 years in the 7505 (4123 women) English Longitudinal Study of Ageing members. In Biobank, a mean duration of mortality surveillance of 6.6 years gave rise to a total of 13,072 deaths, while in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, 1183 deaths occurred after a mean of 7.7 years. In ascending magnitude, loneliness, social isolation then cigarette smoking were associated with an increased risk of mortality from all-causes and all cancers combined. When cardiovascular disease mortality was the endpoint of interest, both smoking and social isolation, though not loneliness, revealed similar relationships. Conclusions: Contrary to cross-review comparisons, in the present datasets it appears that poor social integration is in fact less strongly linked to total mortality than cigarette smoking.
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