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Loneliness as a risk factor for metabolic syndrome: results from the HUNT study
  1. Roger Ekeberg Henriksen1,
  2. Roy M Nilsen2,
  3. Ragnhild Bjarkøy Strandberg1
  1. 1 Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, Norway
  2. 2 Department of Health and Functioning, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Roger Ekeberg Henriksen, Department of health and caring sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bergen 5020, Norway; reh{at}


Objective Metabolic syndrome (MetS) includes hyperglycaemia, hypertension, central adiposity, elevated triglyceride levels and low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. All factors are identified as risk factors for cardiovascular disease and mortality. This longitudinal study examined whether loneliness, which has been shown to predict a range of negative health outcomes, increases the risk for MetS.

Methods We used data from ‘the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study’ (HUNT) which is a large longitudinal health study based on a Mid-Norway county population (n=26 990). Self-reports, physical examinations and blood samples were analysed to evaluate the associations between loneliness and incidents of MetS after 10 years (follow-up survey conducted during 2006–2008). We also investigated the role of depression as a potential mediating factor.

Results Individuals who reported higher levels of loneliness had a higher odds for MetS (adjusted OR 1.09 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.16); p=0.007). This effect was mediated through depression.

Conclusions Findings suggest that loneliness may be an important factor that increases the risk for MetS. The effect of loneliness on MetS is mediated through depressive symptoms. Reducing loneliness may help prevent the incidence of MetS and related diseases.

  • depression
  • obesity
  • psychosocial factors
  • social epidemiology
  • stress

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  • Contributors Conceived and designed the study: REH, RMN, RBS. Performed the analysis: REH, RMN, RBS. Wrote the paper: REH, RMN, RBS. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics, Norway (reference number 2017/45).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available.