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A new study by the University of Copenhagen has found that men who live alone for over seven years have a significantly higher level of inflammation-linked blood chemicals than men who are partnered or women either partnered or living alone.

The peer-reviewed observational study, which included over 4,800 people aged 48 to 62, drew on information submitted to the Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB) study. It was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Each person reported the number of years they had lived alone between 1986-2011, and respondents were then grouped by how much time they had been alone: less than one year, 2-6 years, and seven or more years.

In addition to the divorcees, the study included 83 people who were widowed.

It showed that men who had two or more break-ups during the study period - between 1986 and 2011 - had 17% higher levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood, compared to those who stayed married or had only one relationship during that 26-year period. Both of those chemicals indicate inflammation.

Although the inflammation was classified as low grade, it was persistent, and most likely indicates a heightened risk of age-related ill health and death, suggest the researchers.

Results show men with high levels of education who lived alone for two to six years had the highest levels of CRP in their blood, while those living alone for over seven years had the highest levels of IL-6. No such associations were found among the women in the study.

This link held fast even when factors such as education, weight, medication, pre-existing conditions, health, and similar were neutralized.

According to the study's authors, "Men were more likely to contract these diseases compared to women, due largely to the friendship relationships that women form more than men, which helps them to cross this difficult stage in life."

The researchers noted, "Men tend to externalize their behavior following a partnership break-up, by drinking, for example, whereas women tend to internalize, manifest in depressive symptoms, which may influence inflammatory levels differently."

"The levels of inflammation in our study are low, but they are also significant, clinically relevant, and most likely a risk factor for increased mortality."

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