Publication Date



loneliness, obesity, body mass index, health care utilization, outpatient care


Purpose: Rates of loneliness and obesity have increased in recent decades. Loneliness and obesity independently have been found to be risk factors for negative physical and mental health outcomes. This study examined the rates and interrelationships of loneliness, body mass index (BMI), and health care utilization in a primary care setting.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of adult patients presenting for outpatient care at 7 family medicine clinical practices in Pennsylvania was conducted. Survey questions included self-reported measures of loneliness, height/weight, number of health care visits, and potential confounders (eg, sociodemographic variables, health status). Bivariate and multivariable linear regression models were used to analyze associations among loneliness, BMI, and health care utilization.

Results: In all, 464 eligible patients returned surveys for an overall response rate of 26%. Mean (standard deviation) loneliness score was 4.2 (1.7), mean BMI was 30.4 (7.6), and mean number of visits in year prior was 2.7 (3.6). On bivariate analysis, BMI was positively associated with loneliness (effect estimate: 0.50; P = 0.03). On multivariable analysis, BMI was negatively associated with attending religious services and self-reported physical health and positively associated with self-reported mental health (P < 0.05 for all), but not associated with loneliness. While not associated with loneliness, health care utilization was negatively associated with Hispanic ethnicity, marital status, and self-reported physical health (P < 0.05 for all).

Conclusions: Given the detrimental effects loneliness and obesity have on health outcomes, it might be prudent for health care providers to prioritize health concerns for their patients by assessing loneliness and counseling regarding associated risks, particularly in patients with obesity.




September 16th, 2020


January 21st, 2021


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