New findings suggest smoking increases social isolation and loneliness | Imperial News

Smokers can become more socially isolated and lonely than non-smokers as they age, a new study suggests.

Previous research has shown that people who are isolated and lonely are more likely to smoke. However, this latest study, which is the first of its kind, found that smoking itself can also lead to higher levels of isolation and loneliness.

The research, published this week in The Lancet Regional Health Europe and led by researchers from Imperial College London and UCL, examined the relationship between smoking and the development of social isolation and loneliness.

He found that over time, people who smoked saw their social contacts decrease and they became less socially engaged and more lonely than non-smokers. With many people who smoke pledging to quit early in the New Year, the authors hope their new study will provide another incentive.

“Our research suggests that smoking is bad for some aspects of psychological and social health in addition to the well-established physical impacts of smoking,” said study author Dr Keir Philip of the National Heart Institute. and the lungs of the Imperial.

“Some people think of smoking as a social activity, but our study did not support this idea – smokers have actually become more socially isolated and more lonely than non-smokers over time.”

“This research provides even more reasons why people should aim to quit this new year, and adds a rationale for increasing support for people trying to quit.” Dr Keir Philippe Clinical Research Officer, National Heart & Lung Institute

He adds: “Our findings contribute to existing knowledge in this area and suggest the existence of a vicious cycle of smoking, social isolation and loneliness. This research provides even more reasons why people should aim to quit smoking. smoke this new year, and adds rationale to increase support for people trying to quit smoking. “

The new study used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), consisting of a nationally representative sample of 8,780 people aged 50 and over in England. The social isolation and loneliness of the participants were assessed over 12 years (at baseline, then after 4, 8 and 12 years).

Researchers found that at the start of the study, current smokers were more likely to be alone and socially isolated than non-smokers, to have less frequent social interactions with family and friends, to participate less frequently in community and cultural activities and to be more likely to live alone.

Smoking was also associated with greater reductions in social contact, increased social disengagement, and increased loneliness over time.

These results stuck even after controlling for factors such as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Possible factors

The study is observational and therefore cannot determine the cause of this association, but the authors believe it may be due to a range of factors.

For example, smokers are at an increased risk of developing shortness of breath and other physical health problems, including lung and heart disease, which limit their ability to socialize.

Likewise, smoking is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, which can impact how a person socializes.

“These results are yet another reason for the government to continue to introduce the policies necessary to achieve its ambition of a tobacco-free world by 2030.” Professor Nick Hopkinson Professor of Respiratory Medicine, National Heart & Lung Institute

Additionally, friends of people who smoke are more likely to have smoked themselves and are therefore more likely to have died prematurely.

Other social factors include the reduced social acceptability of smoking in general, and in particular the expansion of tobacco control legislation introduced to reduce the harms of passive smoking.

Professor Nick Hopkinson, another study author from Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute, said: “Most people already know that smoking is a health risk. Our results suggest that smokers are also more likely to become socially isolated and lonely as they get older.

“These results are another reason for the government to insist on the introduction of the policies necessary to achieve its ambition of a smoke-free world by 2030. It concerns in particular a” polluter pays “tax on the profits of the tobacco industry; and the raising of the legal age for the sale of tobacco from 18 to 21.

Quitting smoking can be difficult, but the NHS has a number of great resources to make sure people get the help they need. These include free tools and advice and proven that help people quit smoking for good. “

“Relation of smoking with current and future social isolation and loneliness: 12-year follow-up of senior adults in England” by Philip et al is published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.

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