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Smokers Are More Likely to Be Socially Isolated With Age and Have Strong Feelings of Loneliness

An analysis of 12 years of follow-up data by Keir EJ Philip from the UK's National Heart and Lung Institute and colleagues found that compared with non-smokers, smokers are more likely to experience social isolation, communicate less with family members, participate less in social activities, are more likely to live alone, and even experience greater loneliness, and as the years go by, this phenomenon will intensify.

In fact, the relationship between smoking and socialization has long been explored, and they have found that people with social isolation and strong feelings of loneliness are more likely to smoke. But given the health effects of smoking and the growing ban on smoking in public places, Philip and his colleagues can't help but wonder.

Did lonely people choose to smoke, or did smoking lead to loneliness and social isolation? So Philip and his colleagues used a sample from the UK Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), which included 8,780 participants aged 50 and over, who were followed for up to 12 years from 2004/2005.

The participants were 45% male, with a mean age of 67 years, 15.1% were smokers, and 84.9% were non-smokers. Compared with non-smokers, smokers were slightly younger, had lower education levels, lower wealth levels, slightly higher employment rates, and were more likely to be depressed (P < 0.01). They also collected participants' social isolation and loneliness at baseline and at 4, 8, and 12 years of follow-up.

Among them, social isolation is based on participants' low social contact behavior (face-to-face interaction, telephone conversation, email or written communication), social disengagement behavior (participation in community activities such as residents, fitness, education, art, etc., as well as visiting museums, listening to concerts, etc.), going to the cinema, etc.), family disengagement behavior (living alone or not). Loneliness was assessed according to the Loneliness Scale.

They found that, compared with non-smokers, smokers had higher levels of social isolation, as reflected in less communication with family and friends, less participation in various clubs, group activities, and a higher likelihood of living alone, not only that, but the loneliness of smokers is also stronger.

Longitudinal, compared to baseline, smoking was associated with a substantial reduction in social contact behaviors and an increase in social disengagement behaviors at 4, 8, and 12 years of follow-up; smokers tended to experience increased loneliness, and at follow-up From year 4 to year 8, smoking was significantly associated with increased loneliness, and the changes at other follow-up periods were not statistically significant.

It is worth mentioning that the association between smoking and social isolation and loneliness was stronger in smokers <65 years old than in smokers ≥65 years old. However, the social isolation and loneliness brought about by smoking were not related to the cohabitation or loneliness of the smokers.

In short, Philip and his colleagues analyzed data from nearly 9,000 people over 12 years of follow-up and concluded that smoking was associated with greater social isolation and greater loneliness. The older you smoke, the worse the situation will be. The researchers believe that due to the vigorous implementation of anti-smoking measures, the "living space" of smokers in public places is forced to shrink, which may affect the social frequency of smokers.

In addition, the impact of smoking on health should not be underestimated. First of all, after a certain age, the poor physical condition of smokers will lead to social inconvenience. Second, there may be people who can't stand the smell of cigarettes and maintain social distance, and smokers may only have fun with smokers. What's more troubling is that, coupled with the fact that the health of smokers is not optimistic, it may further impact the social circle of smokers.

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