Why loneliness can be a silent enemy for cancer survivors

Why loneliness can be a silent enemy for cancer survivors
Why loneliness can be a silent enemy for cancer survivors

American Cancer Society study reveals that cancer survivors may face increased risk of mortality due to loneliness (Illustrative image Infobae)

Loneliness is known with certainty to be related to , both physically and mentally. In 2023, Vivek Murthythe US Surgeon General published a report called “Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation” about the impact of that situation on everything from mood to cognitive function to physical well-being.

He said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusdirector general of the WHO, based on scientific references, said that “people who do not have enough stable social relationships run a risk. increased risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression and suicide”.

In line with this, according to new research, cancer survivors who feel lonely have a higher risk of dying. The study, led by the American Cancer Society (ACS by its acronym in English) and published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (JNCCN), found that cancer survivors with the highest levels of loneliness had the highest risk of mortality.

Researchers analyzed 3,447 cancer survivors ages 50 and older, drawing data from the 2008-2018 Health and Retirement Study. They used the UCLA Loneliness Scale (University of California, Los Angeles) to measure levels of loneliness, from none to severe.

The study’s findings underscore the urgency of programs to detect and address loneliness among cancer survivors, especially among doctors, healthcare personnel and family – (Illustrative Image Infobae)

“In this study, we found that the high loneliness was associated with a higher risk of mortality among cancer survivors,” he told Fox News Digital the author of the study, Jingxuan Zhaosenior associate scientist for health services research at ACS.

He added: “This study is especially timely given the US Surgeon General’s recent Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community, which highlighted the adverse impact of loneliness on individuals as well as public health.”

The researchers say in the study: “In 2022, there were more than 18 million cancer survivors in the United Statesand this number is expected to increase to 22 million by 2030 due to the aging population and improvements in early cancer detection and effective treatments.”

They highlighted that the cancer diagnosis and treatment can have long-term adverse effects, including physical problems, cognitive problems, hearing loss, and emotional difficulties, such as anxiety and depression: “Taken together, these adverse effects can negatively impact survivors’ social relationships and contribute to lonelinessa subjective feeling of Social isolation”.

Researchers urge the implementation of programs to improve social and family support for cancer survivors and mitigate loneliness – (Illustrative Image Infobae)

The experts stated that loneliness is associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality in the general population: “Its importance as a medical issue was underscored by the widespread social isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic″, they highlighted. As an example, they cited a study of healthy people in Sweden which found that those who reported a high level of loneliness were at risk of mortality a 27% older compared to people who did not suffer from it.

Cancer survivors may experience unique sources of loneliness associated with their diagnosis and treatment history. “Family and friends may not understand your concerns related to the disease, who hesitate to share their fears and worries related to cancer and who have not received support that they expected and/or needed during their cancer experience, all of which could potentially increase feelings of social isolation”the researchers indicated in the study.

The latest national survey of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) published at the beginning of the year noted that the 30% of adults experienced feelings of loneliness at least once a week. “Research has discovered that the loneliness and social isolation They may be as harmful to health as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a dayand they have a significant impact on mental health,” warned the entity that brings together psychiatrists in the United States.

Combating loneliness in patients would improve their lives and give them hope for the future (Illustrative image Infobae)

Based on the conclusion of their study, more programs were called for detect loneliness and improving social support for cancer survivors.

“Our findings also highlight the importance of care coordination on the part of the oncology doctors and other primary care providers to ensure that cancer survivors receive timely screening and effective intervention for loneliness”, indicated the author of the study.

Maintaining an active network of friends and social interactions is related to multiple factors that affect the well-being and health. The doctor in Neurosciences Teresa Torralva, neuropsychologist and president of the Ineco Foundation remarked in a recent note that “the people with greater social activitypresent a lowest rate of depressiona lower frequency of diseases in general, better immune functioning and a lower risk of heart attack. There is no better stimulus for a brain than the connection with another brain”.

Thus, for the construction of the individual well-being it is necessary the social fabric, since well-being is, among many aspects, the result of relationships with other people. “In that sense, a series of scientific studies reveal that foster positive family and friendship relationships and community, protects our brain and body from disease, he stress and the loneliness“added Torralva.

The death of a partner, family and friends can exacerbate loneliness in patients. For this reason, the researchers highlighted the importance of an effective intervention in the face of this problem (Illustrative image Infobae)

To achieve an optimal social life it is necessary plan, promote and promote social ties. “This is not always a given and our executive functions “They are key in this process,” commented Torralva. Making plans, establishing common goals or anticipating reactions from others trains us in our relationship with others.”

Social connection involves having interpersonal ties that are sometimes healthy and other times not so much. The healthy relationships “They are built on the basis of healthy communication, mutual respect and trust, and allow them to feel valued and respected; It is necessary to try to identify these types of links in order to promote them,” the neuropsychologist concluded.

Finally, Dr. Zhao concluded: “Understanding whether these factors related to the cancer can modify the association between loneliness and survival will be important for future studies” and also for greater psychological well-being of the patient.

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