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Workers Comp agencies eye curbing loneliness to aid health

One of the goals of worker’s compensation is to give injured workers the chance to heal and return to the job. Worker’s comp agencies are eyeing new research that examines how social interaction and loneliness affect healing.

By offering such services as meal delivery, companionship and help with food preparation, worker’s compensation organizations intend to improve injury recovery times.

Study into effects of loneliness

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health finds that loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent. The study found that those who expressed a feeling of loneliness suffered compromised immune systems and increase cellular inflammation.

Those outcomes are the result of the influence of “conserved transcriptional response to adversity” (CTRA) on white blood cells, which protect the body against infection. CTRA also increases inflammation on the cellular level – different than the swelling noticeable after an injury but no less destructive.

These two effects – a weakened ability to fight infection and damaged cellular health – are dangerous and potentially lethal.

Even more deadly is the reciprocal nature between the two: As loneliness causes the body’s health to decline via CTRA, that decline causes a person to be more lonely, which then increases CTRA.

Researchers are still studying CTRA, loneliness and their effects on the body, but are certain that CTRA is not affected by stress or depression.

Documented effects

The effects of loneliness have been the subject of a variety of studies. Most of these have focused on the effects of loneliness on the elderly, but more studies are underway on the effects of loneliness on otherwise healthy people and those who have suffered an injury.

One meta-study of research conducted between 1980 and 2014 found that loneliness and social isolation were linked to a nearly 30 percent increase in death, regardless of the health of the subject.

The issue of treating the social isolation of a person receiving worker’s compensation is still debated, but those programs looking to get injured workers back on their feet and into the workplace are studying the issue closely.