In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, older US adults who experienced social isolation had higher blood levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, two markers of inflammation that can have long-term negative consequences for the health of individuals as they age.
The study included a nationally representative sample of 4,648 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older.
The authors noted that clinical and social interventions that address social isolation among older adults may influence biological processes such as inflammation, as well as their potentially negative effects.
“Our findings demonstrate an important association between social isolation and biological processes. This work is a step in the journey to disentangle the mechanisms by which social isolation leads to higher levels of morbidity and mortality,” said lead author Thomas K.M. Cudjoe, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “My hope is that investigators incorporate objective measures of social isolation and biological markers in future longitudinal studies so that we might continue to advance our understanding of these complex biopsychosocial interactions.”