Social isolation, loneliness, and inflammation: A multi-cohort investigation in early and mid-adulthood

Timothy Matthews, Line Jee Hartmann Rasmussen, Antony Ambler, Andrea Danese, Jesper Eugen-Olsen, Daisy Fancourt, Helen L Fisher, Kasper Karmark Iversen, Martin Schultz, Karen Sugden, Benjamin Williams, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E Moffitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Social isolation and loneliness have been associated with poor health and increased risk for mortality, and inflammation might explain this link. We used data from the Danish TRIAGE Study of acutely admitted medical patients (N = 6,144, mean age 60 years), and from two population-representative birth cohorts: the New Zealand Dunedin Longitudinal Study (N = 881, age 45) and the UK Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study (N = 1448, age 18), to investigate associations of social isolation with three markers of systemic inflammation: C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and a newer inflammation marker, soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR), which is thought to index systemic chronic inflammation. In the TRIAGE Study, socially isolated patients (those living alone) had significantly higher median levels of suPAR (but not CRP or IL-6) compared with patients not living by themselves. Social isolation prospectively measured in childhood was longitudinally associated with higher CRP, IL-6, and suPAR levels in adulthood (at age 45 in the Dunedin Study and age 18 in the E-Risk Study), but only suPAR remained associated after controlling for covariates. Dunedin Study participants who reported loneliness at age 38 or age 45 had elevated suPAR at age 45. In contrast, E-Risk Study participants reporting loneliness at age 18 did not show any elevated markers of inflammation. In conclusion, social isolation was robustly associated with increased inflammation in adulthood, both in medical patients and in the general population. It was associated in particular with systemic chronic inflammation, evident from the consistently stronger associations with suPAR than other inflammation biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-736
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Early online date21 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Social isolation, loneliness, and inflammation: A multi-cohort investigation in early and mid-adulthood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this