A recent study has linked social isolation and loneliness to the mortality risks faced by obese individuals.

Last week, a team of researchers published the results of an innovative study aiming to shed better light on the link between mental and physical health in the journal JAMA Network. Specifically, they sought to uncover whether higher or lower levels of social isolation and loneliness influenced obesity-related mortality rates.

Using data from a biomedical database called the UK Biobank, they looked at the self-reported levels of social isolation and loneliness of 398,972 participants on questionnaires that were filled out between March 2006 and November 2021. The subjects had a mean age of about 55 years, and just over 23% were considered clinically obese.

The team found a direct correlation between levels of social isolation and loneliness and the mortality risk among all participants, but especially the obese ones. A whopping 36% decrease in mortality risk was recorded among obese participants with low levels of social isolation and loneliness. By comparison, healthy-weight individuals logged just a 9% drop.

Moreover, being socially isolated or lonely was actually found to have a greater impact on mortality risk than other lifestyle-related risk factors assessed by the team, such as alcohol, physical activity, and diet, according to the study.

Obesity has become a serious health problem in the United States, with the latest data from the CDC suggesting that nearly 42% of Americans are now obese.

Considered by some experts to be a chronic condition, obesity is directly connected to an array of unhealthy lifestyle habits and negative health outcomes, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer, as reported by The Dallas Express. Obesity can also cause economic strain, as the CDC estimates obesity raises the medical costs for adults by approximately $1,861 per year compared to healthy-weight individuals.

The treatment of obesity has focused on weight loss, such as through medications like Ozempic, bariatric surgery, or diet and exercise regimens.

Yet the researchers involved in this latest study would like to launch clinical trials to actually “test the effects of improving isolation and loneliness on health,” as co-author Dr. Lu Qi, a professor in Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, explained, according to Healthline.