Loneliness Linked to Increased Mortality Risk in Cancer Survivors

Survivors with severe loneliness had a 67% increased risk, study finds.

The study was conducted by Jingxuan Zhao, MPH, of the American Cancer Society, and colleagues and published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Greater feelings of loneliness and social isolation were associated with a higher risk of mortality among cancer survivors, according to a retrospective longitudinal study.

Over the study period of 10 years, cancer survivors with higher loneliness scores on the UCLA Loneliness Scale had higher mortality risk compared with those who had low/no loneliness scores, following a dose-response association.

“Our findings underscore the importance of incorporating loneliness screening as a routine part of cancer survivorship care,” they wrote. “Healthcare providers should consider adding loneliness assessment tools to their standard practice, and these tools should be employed at multiple time points, from initial diagnosis throughout survivorship care.”

Zha0 and colleagues said these findings are particularly relevant in light of last year’s advisoryopens in a new tab or window from the U.S. Surgeon General warning of an “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” in the U.S., even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighting the importance of relevant training for healthcare providers, as well as the need for research on loneliness to help increase public awareness.

They included 3,447 cancer survivors with 5,808 person-years of observation. Most had been diagnosed >2 years prior to the survey. Their analysis was adjusted for sex, marital status, education, number of health conditions, and years since cancer diagnosis.