Loneliness and separations linked to poor health in men

(ORDO NEWS) — A large study by Danish scientists has shown that years spent alone and frequent divorces or separations from partners increase levels of markers of inflammation in the body. But this only applies to men.

There are studies that have analyzed the health risks after a breakup or divorce. But they mostly focused on just one such episode. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) have published a work on the impact of a series of divorces on health. The findings are presented in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The authors worked with data from the Copenhagen Biobank of Aging and Middle Age, which provides information on 4,835 participants aged 48 to 62 years. Successive separations from partners, including 83 deaths, were reported for 4,612 people (3,170 males and 1,442 females) between 1986 and 2011.

The number of years spent alone after the breakup was classified into three groups: up to one year (the reference group, since such a period is common and considered normal), two to six years, and seven or more years.

In addition, scientists received information about the age of the participants, their level of education, early psychological trauma (loss of a parent, financial difficulties, family conflicts , adoptive parents), weight, taking medications that affect inflammation in the body (statins, steroids, immunosuppressants), diseases and assessment of personal qualities (neuroticism, conscientiousness, and so on).

Blood samples were taken from the subjects to measure the level of inflammatory markers – interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein. Recall that inflammatory reactions in the body are usually associated with a number of age-related diseases, including cardiovascular and type 2 diabetes.

Scientists found that about half of the participants experienced a breakup, and about the same number of people lived alone for more than a year (54 percent of women and 49 percent of men). About half also experienced the above-mentioned traumatic events in childhood; 50 percent of women and nearly two-thirds of men had problems with being overweight or obese.

Among men, the highest levels of markers of inflammation in the body were found in those who experienced the highest number of separations from sexual partners. This level was 17 percent higher than the control group.

The same applies to men who have been alone for seven years or more: the level of markers of inflammation in them was 12 percent higher than in those who did not have such experience. The highest levels of both markers of inflammation were observed in college-educated men who spent two to six and over seven years alone.

However, the patterns were valid only for men: no such correlations were found for women. Scientists believe that this is due to the different reactions to divorce in both. Men tend to externalize their behavior after a breakup, that is, to blame the outside world (circumstances, partner) for it. Therefore, they can drink out of grief, which carries health risks.

Women, on the other hand, tend to blame themselves, and this is expressed in depressive symptoms. And depression and alcoholism have different effects on the level of inflammation in the body. Experts, however, do not exclude that there was simply not enough data on the female sex, since much less women participated in the study.

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