Can boredom be the death of you?

Title Bored to death
Authors Britton A., Shipley M
Ref Int J Epidemiology 2010;39:370-1
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Lay summary

In a rare moment of idleness one day we pondered whether the expression ‘bored to death’ has any basis. Are people who are bored more likely to die earlier than those who are not?

We found that among participants who were free of prevalent cardiovascular disease (n=7,524) those who reported a great deal of boredom on entry to the study, 1985-88, were more likely to die over the period to April 2009 than those not bored at all. Furthermore we found some evidence of cumulative effects, as those still reporting boredom 2½ years later had slightly higher risks than those reporting it once, or never. With further adjustments for employment grade, physical activity and poor self-rated health, these hazards were greatly reduced and did not reach statistical significance. We conclude that those who report being bored are more likely to die younger than those who are not bored. However, boredom is almost certainly a proxy for other risk factors. Whilst some aspects of life may not be so easily be modified (for example disease status or position in society) proneness to boredom could be indicative of harmful behaviours, such as excessive drinking, smoking, and taking drugs. Finding renewed interest in social and physical activities may alleviate boredom and improve health.

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