Does Social Isolation Leads to an Early Death?

Both social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality, but it is uncertain whether their effects are independent or whether loneliness represents the emotional pathway through which social isolation impairs health. People who are socially isolated are more likely to die prematurely, regardless of their underlying health issues, according to a study of the elderly British population.

The research found on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that when mental and physical health conditions were factored out, the lack of social contact continued to lead to early death among 6,500 men and women tracked over a seven-year period.

People were recorded as dying from natural, normal causes but, isolation did have a strong influence as well. The study also appeared to diminish the role that subjective feelings of “loneliness,” as opposed to the lack of social contact, may have on a person’s life span. Both lead to higher mortality rates, but the effects of feeling lonely is reduced once demographic and health factors are weighed in.

Regardless of the distinction, the study reinforces the need to increase social support for the elderly, even as it adds to debate over the intertwined effects of social contact and feelings of loneliness in old age. A similar look at retired Americans in 2012 reinforced multiple studies that link loneliness to numerous illnesses, including heart trouble and high blood pressure.

Both studies come as British and U.S. populations have become more solitary. People living alone compose more than a quarter of U.S households, and the proportion of Americans who said they had no one to talk to about important matters grew from 10% in 1985 to 25% in 2004.

Separating the effects of loneliness from those of isolation, however, has not been easy for those who study rates of illness and death. While isolation can be measured directly — by how many friends you have or how often you have contact with family — loneliness is more subjective, measured through survey questions about whether social needs and expectations are being met.

Anyone familiar with Henry David Thoreau knows that isolation does not necessarily lead to loneliness, while the story of Marilyn Monroe shows that a strong social life can still leave you lonely.

Last year’s report on loneliness, based on the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, showed that loneliness appeared to increase mortality risk over a six-year period, an association that could not be attributed to social relationships or health behaviors, such as smoking and drinking.

The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, funded both the British study and last year’s report on U.S. retirees. Loneliness and isolation “should get lots of attention because they may be as important, as joint factors, as smoking.” However, the effect of loneliness was not independent of demographic characteristics or health problems and did not contribute to the risk associated with social isolation. Although both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being, efforts to reduce isolation are likely to be more relevant to mortality.

Social Isolation and Health

Social Isolation, Loneliness, Mortality

old_alone_man

Qatar Outdoes America in Obesity Rates?

Well, America isn’t the Only Heavy Hitter Anymore…

The obesity epidemic in America has obviously generated a lot of publicity, in recent years. And more specifically, West Virginia has been in that spotlight with its towering obesity rates, let alone its childhood obesity rates.

But, now Qatar has been given that title of being the most obese country in the world.  According to new data release by the Supreme Council of Health, about 70% of people in Qatar are overweight and some 41% are obese.

If you’ve read my blogs before, I have posted about the Middle East and its urbanization, associated with fast food chains and obesity rates. The rapid urbanization in Qatar, and many other states in the Arab Peninsula, following the discovery of oil has contributed to a sedentary lifestyle. Coupled with a lack of exercise culture and diets high in fats, salts and sugar, obesity has rapidly increased in the Middle East.

The rapid increase in obesity has led to an increase in several non-communicable diseases in the small Gulf country, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the rate of diabetes in Qatar has climbed to 20.2% of the population.

Often people think that they need to do a lot to prevent illnesses. That is not the case. Often simply making minimal changes will help. The incidence of these diseases can be significantly reduced by simple lifestyle changes, such as increased regular exercise and integrating healthier foods into your diet.

Just alone is 2012, studies showed that 45% of adult Qataris were obese and up to 40% of school children were obese as well. Many Qataris, especially dietitians, are worried that in the next 5 years that 73% of Qatari women and 69% of Qatari men will be obese. Combined with high rates of diabetes, often triggered by excess weight, this has become a national… Wait, now a global concern for the country. In 2012, 15.4% of adult had diabetes, with rates in children below the age of 5 ay 28.8%.

Qatar surpasses US in obesity

Qatar is World’s Wealthiest and Obese

qatar fatty

qatar fat

Qatar sign

Our Healthy Roadtrip

Our Healthy Roadtrip

This past week, I had yet another Extended Community Action Team meeting. Within this meeting, I have 3 undergraduates on my Action Team. They each represent a different aspect of community nutrition off-campus in the Morgantown, WV surrounding area. One of those interns is responsible for community nutrition education at the Shack Neighborhood House. Since we instilled a rainbow nutrition curriculum last semester, I wanted to try something a little different.

I remembered a show that Rachel Ray hosted, where she would travel the country and try different foods and restaurants based on that region and she was on a budget. So, since the ISPP Dietetic Interns most recently were solely responsible for a successful food culture nutrition and culinary education class… I thought this could be like a food culture program but, only within the US. So, out came the new nutrition education curriculum called “Our Healthy Roadtrip”. Each week, for 6 weeks, students from the Human Nutrition & Foods department at West Virginia University will educate children in grades 3-5 on different food culture based on different regions of the country. Then, they will focus on one specific food and have a snack and interactive activity corresponding with the curriculum.  This new program starts on March 4th and will continue until mid-April. I think the students at the Shack Neighborhood House will really get a better sense of the country and what it has to offer, in regards to nutrition and food culture as a whole.

The location of our new nutrition education curriculum!

The location of our new nutrition education curriculum!

A poster I created that will be on display at the SNH for the remainder of the programming!

A poster I created that will be on display at the SNH for the remainder of the programming!