Absence of visits from friends or relatives is linked to an increased risk of death, according to a study published in the journal BMC Medicine.

The researchers used data from more than 450,000 adults from the UK Biobank health database to investigate the association between mortality and five types of social interaction.

The participants had an average age of 56.5 years and filled out a questionnaire with questions about how often they could trust someone close to them and how often they felt lonely (subjective measures), how often friends and family visited them, how often they participated in a weekly group activity and whether they lived alone (objective measurements).

The researchers found that all five types of social interaction were associated with greater mortality. Overall, increased mortality was more strongly associated with low levels of objective measures of social interaction than with low levels of subjective measures. The strongest association was for people who were never visited by friends or relatives and had a 39% increased risk of death.

Participants who received visits from friends or relatives at least monthly had a significantly lower associated risk of mortality, suggesting that there may be a protective effect from this social interaction. At the same time, it was found that no benefit was observed from participating in weekly group activities in participants who had never had visits from friends or family.

The authors emphasize that further research could investigate the effects of other types of social interaction on mortality.

In addition, they point out that their findings could be used to help identify patients who are at higher risk of death due to social factors and develop more effective interventions to combat this risk.