Lonely and single middle-aged men are at an increased risk of developing cancer than those in a relationship and with people around them, according to a new study.
A team from the University of Eastern Finland worked with 2,570 middle-aged men, monitoring their health and mortality from the 1980s to the present day.
Over the course of the study 25% of participants had developed cancer, with 11% of the Finnish men involved dying from the condition.
There was a 'clear link' between loneliness and an increased risk of cancer, the team explained, with being lonely increasing the risk of cancer by about ten percent.
Globally, cancer is the second leading cause of death. Loneliness has been suggested as a risk factor for cancer mortality. However, connections between loneliness, social isolation, and cancer are poorly understood.
Recent studies have suggested that loneliness could be as significant a health risk as smoking or being overweight, according to the researchers.
'Our findings support the idea that attention should be paid to this issue,' said project Researcher Siiri-Liisi Kraav from the University of Eastern Finland.
In addition, cancer mortality was higher in cancer patients who were unmarried, widowed or divorced at baseline.
'Awareness of the health effects of loneliness is constantly increasing. Therefore, it is important to examine, in more detail, the mechanisms by which loneliness causes adverse health effects,' the authors wrote.
'This information would enable us to better alleviate loneliness and the harm caused by it, as well as to find optimal ways to target preventive measures.'
The findings were published in Psychiatry Research.