Studies have shown time and time again that friendships are beneficial for our health, but now researchers have found that having friends and a support network is crucial for a woman’s long-term breast cancer survival. Women who are lonely are more likely to have their breast cancer return or die from it, a new study suggests.
The study shows a 40 percent higher risk of cancer recurrence in solitary women compared to socially connected women. Additionally, the results indicate that these women in isolation have a 60 percent higher risk of dying from breast cancer and a 70 percent higher risk of dying from any cause.
Scientists still have not found clear reasoning for these results, but it is possible that having social connections provides access to better assistance, and therefore better health.
The researchers collected data on different social connections of over 9,000 women two years after they were diagnosed with breast cancer. 11 years later, there were 1,448 recurrences of cancer and 1,521 deaths, with 990 of those deaths being due to breast cancer.
In addition, researchers found that results from some types of social relationships differed depending on age, race, ethnicity and country of origin. For example, nonwhite women had lower breast cancer death rates when they had strong connections with relatives and friends, whereas older white women had lower breast cancer death rates when they had a spouse.
While the research shows a strong connection between loneliness and breast cancer recurrence, the results do not show a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Dr. Candyce Kroenke, the study’s lead researcher, told Medical News Today that “these findings, from a large pooled cohort of nearly 10,000 women with breast cancer, confirm the generally beneficial influence of women’s social ties on breast cancer recurrence and mortality; however, they also point to complexity, that not all social ties are beneficial, and not in all women.”