Washington US January 15 ANI According to the findings of a recent study, living alone for several years and experiencing serial relationship break-ups are strongly linked to elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, but only in men.
The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The researchers believe that the inflammation was classified as low grade, but it was persistent, and most likely indicates a heightened risk of age-related illness and death.
Divorce and committed relationship breakups, which are often followed by a potentially long period of living alone, have been associated with a heightened risk of poor physical and mental health, lowered immunity, and death.
Most of the studies have focused on the impact of a partnership dissolution, and usually only on marital break-ups.
The researchers wanted to find out what impact an accumulated number of partnership break-ups or years lived alone might have on the immune system response in middle-age, and whether gender and educational attainment might be an influence on the immune system response in middle-age.
They drew information from the Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank CAMB study, submitted by 4835 participants, all of whom were between 48 and 62 years old.
Information on serial partnership break-ups, which included 83 deaths of the partner, was provided by 4612 3170 men and 1442 women and information on the number of years lived alone was supplied by 4835 3336 men and 1499 women for the period 1986 to 2011.
Years of life alone were categorised as: under 1 year, defined as the reference group as this is very common and considered normal, 2 -- 6 years, and 7 or more years.
Information on potentially influential factors was also obtained: age, educational attainment, early major life events loss of a parent, financial worries, foster care weight BMI long term conditions, medicines likely to affect inflammation statins, steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants recent bouts of inflammation, and personality trait scores neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
Nearly half of the participants had experienced a partnership break-up, and a similar percentage had lived more than one year alone 54 per cent of women, 49 per cent of men and 1 in 5 had 10 or fewer years of education, and around 6 out of 10 had one or more long term conditions. Half of the women and almost two-thirds of the men were overweight or obese, and almost half of them had experienced early major life events.
In those who had experienced the most partnership break-ups, the highest levels of inflammatory markers were found among men. They had 17 per cent higher levels of inflammatory markers than those in the reference group. In addition to that, levels of inflammatory markers were up to 12 per cent higher in the group who had spent the most years living alone 7 or more, and the highest levels of both inflammatory markers for years were observed among women with high educational attainment and 2 -- 6 years living alone CRP and 7 or more years spent alone IL- 6, but these findings were only observed among the men; no such associations were found among the women.
Men tend to externalise their behaviour after a partnership break-up by drinking, while women tend to internalise, manifest depressive symptoms, which may influence inflammatory levels differently, note the researchers.
The study only included a relatively small number of women in 1499, which could explain the discrepancy, they add.
This is an observational study and can't establish cause. The researchers acknowledged that as the average age of participants was 54, when the full consequences of exposure to inflammatory chemicals may not yet have peaked. They point out that men also generate stronger inflammatory responses than women of the same age.
Their findings indicate that immune system competence tends to drop off with age, leading to systemic low-grade inflammation, which is thought to have a key role in several age-related diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that the combination of many years of living alone and several break-ups can affect both CRP and IL-6 levels, so small numbers of breakups or years of lived alone is not a risk of poor health.