(HealthDay News) — For older adults undergoing nonelective surgery, loneliness is associated with increased odds of death at 30 days, according to a research letter published online in JAMA Surgery.

Mary R. Shen, MD, from the Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and colleagues examined whether loneliness is associated with postoperative mortality among a cohort of 4453 older adults (mean age, 75.0 years) using data from the Health and Retirement Study linked to Medicare claims. Overall, 14.0% of the patients underwent nonelective surgery.

The mean loneliness score in the cohort was 1.5. The researchers found that the unadjusted 30-day mortality rate was 1.8% (0.9 and 7.4% in the elective and nonelective groups, respectively). Among patients undergoing elective surgery, loneliness was not associated with higher odds of death at 30 days (odds ratio, 0.46; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.20 to 1.01; P=.053). However, loneliness was associated with higher odds of death at 30 days among patients undergoing nonelective surgery (odds ratio, 1.76; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.03 to 3.02; P=.04).

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“The prevalence of loneliness among older individuals and its association with mortality after undergoing nonelective surgery highlights the need for enhanced postoperative support for these patients,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to a health insurance company.

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