Sajid Javid defends end of mandatory Covid self-isolation
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Research regarding the link has been published in the Annual Review of Public Health.
Psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad said: “Over the past few decades now, growing evidence shows people who are more socially connected live longer and people who are more isolated or lonely are at increased risk for early mortality.”
The latest study isn’t the first to identify a link between healthy relationships and longevity.
In 2010, Holt-Lunstad conducted a review of 148 studies on how relationships impact physical health.
Holt-Lunstad says relationships or “social connectedness” is “linked to immune functioning, to susceptibility to viruses, and an ability to mount an effective immune response to vaccines, as well as health related kinds of behaviours”.
As a result, those with large social bubbles and/or a romantic relationship are more likely to have a stronger immune system and, potentially, better lifestyle habits.
Furthermore, loneliness can also affect how someone’s sleep.
On average, lonelier people have poorer sleep according to Holt-Lunstad.
In concluding the impact of relationships on longevity, researchers say they have accounted for lifestyle factors.
Holt-Lunstad added: “I think that’s particularly important to know because there may be the assumption that people who are healthier are more likely to be social and people are who are unhealthy might be more likely to be isolated.
“This evidence is really part of a long-standing body of research that suggests humans are social beings and we needed to rely on others throughout human history for survival.”
Furthermore, while relationships can help extend someone’s life, isolation has been found to have the potential to shorten it through increasing risk factors for diseases like dementia.
The charity Alzheimer’s UK lists several risk factors for dementia including:
• Gender and sex
• Cognitive reserve
• Health conditions and diseases
• Lifestyle factors.
One of the main influencers on cognitive reserve, a person’s ability to cope with disease in the brain, is social isolation.
Alzheimer’s UK says: “[A] person who has not interacted much with other people during their life may also have a smaller cognitive reserve.”
Subsequently, the charity stresses the importance of maintaining social connections into later life in order to maintain overall cognitive health.
Furthermore, it demonstrates the influence of healthy social lives over the physical as well as psychological health.
More information about dementia is available on the NHS website.
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