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Only the lonely? All-cause mortality among children without siblings and children without friends
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS).
2017 (English)In: European Journal of Public Health, ISSN 1101-1262, E-ISSN 1464-360X, Vol. 27, no Suppl. 3Article in journal, Meeting abstract (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: In childhood, relations with siblings and friends lie at the core of social interaction. Lacking either type of relationship may reflect lower levels of social support. While social support is known to be negatively associated with premature death, there are still no long-term follow-ups of mortality risks among children without siblings (‘only-children’) and children without friends (‘lonely-children’). The aim of the present study was therefore to examine and compare all-cause mortality in these two groups.

Methods: Cox regression analysis was based on a Stockholm cohort born in 1953 (n = 15,117). Individuals were identified as only-children if there were no records of siblings before age 18. Derived from sociometric data collected at age 13, lonely-children were defined as not being nominated by classmates as one of three best friends. The follow-up of all-cause mortality covered ages 20-56.

Results: Both only-children and lonely-children had increased risks of premature mortality. When adjusted for a wide range of family-related and individual factors, the risk ratio for only-children increased in strength whereas the risk ratio for lonely-children was reduced. The former finding may be explained by suppressor effects: for example, both only-children and those whose parents had alcohol problems had higher mortality risks but only-children were less likely to have parents with alcohol problems. The latter finding was primarily due to adjustment for scholastic ability.

Conclusions: It is concluded that while only-children and lonely-children have similar risks of all-cause mortality, the processes leading up to premature death appear to be rather different. Yet, interventions targeted at improving social learning experiences may be beneficial for both groups.

Key messages:

  • Only-children have higher risks of premature mortality but the mechanisms remain unclear.

  • Lonely-children are at risk of premature mortality primarily due to poorer scholastic ability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 27, no Suppl. 3
Keywords [en]
child, relationship-sibling, loneliness, mortality
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148464DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/ckx187.308OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-148464DiVA, id: diva2:1152707
Conference
10th European Public Health Conference, Stockholm, Sweden, November 1-4, 2017
Projects
Reproduction of inequality through linked lives (RELINK)Ofärdens samgång: Hur klustrar sig sociala, ekonomiska och hälsomässiga villkor i befolkningen över tid och vad påverkas av samt påverkar klustertillhörighet?Available from: 2017-10-26 Created: 2017-10-26 Last updated: 2018-08-17Bibliographically approved

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Almquist, Ylva B.Högnäs, Robin S.Modin, Bitte
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