Social isolation health message fails to cut through

Social isolation health message fails to cut through
People tend to underestimate the importance of social factors for health. Credit: University of Queensland

Social isolation has been shown to pose a greater health threat than smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise – but that message is failing to get through to the community.

However, a new study led by University of Queensland School of Psychology researcher Professor Alex Haslam shows that people remain largely unaware of the importance of for .

UQ researchers surveyed more than 500 people from the United States and the United Kingdom to assess their views about the importance of social and behavioural risk factors for life expectancy.

"Although research shows that lack of and support are the most important determinants of mortality, we found that people tend to see them as among the least important," Professor Haslam said.

"Our survey indicated that only around 15 per cent of people saw these social factors to be as important for mortality as they are.

"Men, younger participants, and those with a lower level of education were more likely to underestimate the importance of for health, as were people who believed in the importance of authority and convention.

"These results suggest that education has a role to play in increasing awareness, in the same way that we have seen very successful campaigns to quit smoking, exercise more, and have a healthy diet.

"We also need to question the conventional view of health as something that is purely physical and medical.

"We know from a wealth of previous research that people who are more socially connected live longer and have better health than those who are socially isolated."

He said a study recently published in Psychological Science showed that loneliness increased the risk of premature death by about 30 per cent.

"As alarming as the evidence is about the detrimental health effects of , the message clearly isn't getting through," Professor Haslam said.

"In saying that, there are some encouraging signs on the horizon.

"In the UK, for example, there is a strong push to encourage GPs to offer 'social prescribing' as part of their treatment for patients with a range of conditions including stress, trauma, ageing, depression, addiction, eating disorders and brain injury.

"Social prescribing focuses on building people's social connections by linking them with social or physical activities in their community such as local sports, arts and voluntary organisations.

"This new way of treating health conditions has been shown in our ongoing research to have a wide range of benefits."

The research is published in Social Science and Medicine, and the   of social connected is  documented in The New Psychology of Health: Unlocking the Social Cure.

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Social isolation, loneliness could be greater threat to public health than obesity, researchers say

More information: S. Alexander Haslam et al. Social cure, what social cure? The propensity to underestimate the importance of social factors for health, Social Science & Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.12.020

The New Psychology of Health: Unlocking the Social Cure. … p/book/9781138123885

Citation: Social isolation health message fails to cut through (2018, February 5) retrieved 21 September 2019 from
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Feb 05, 2018
Clearly the overall society has not been willing to cede control of the family. Our economy is geared to isolation by divorce, separation, remarriage. The one overriding factor of our economy is to prevent generational wealth accumulation that is based on permanency of residency, job and partners. These are exactly the factors our economy targets for profit taking.
Efforts to subvert these essential parts of society with fake substitutes like social media, tv and sports are indicative of the ineffectiveness of these faux replacements. Recall how FaceBook barely managed not to crash on its IPO and now how it has to be massaged into 'life.'
Were the economy to be honestly analyzed as to how the US counts its wealth, the calculation of GDP would lend weight to the claim that the greatest contributor to GDP is a wealthy old man dying in a private hospital being divorced by his third wife.

Feb 05, 2018
The elephant in the room is the assumption that social isolation is concomitant with loneliness and the implicit assumption that physical socialisation is necessary whereas in reality many people find that online socialisation is sufficient for their needs.

Confounding socialisation with loneliness is a dangerous error. Many people highly socialised people may also be lonely, many people who appear to be socially isolated are not suffering any kind of loneliness at all. Thus the causative link between actual physical isolation and loneliness is tenuous at best. *Imposed* isolation or when isolation is not by choice, however, can reliably be correlated with subsequent loneliness.

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