In addition to frailty, living alone and feelings of loneliness made elderly patients in a British study more likely to be readmitted to a hospital.

Researchers in Cambridge reviewed the files of 47 patients staying at an in-patient geriatric ward last year, studying their levels of frailty and length of stay and quizzing them on perceived loneliness. The patients had an average age of 85 and were being treated for respiratory illnesses, falls and other ailments.

Patients who reported feeling lonely stayed an average length of 24 days, versus 17 days for those who said they didn’t feel lonely. Those who lived alone were also more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.

“Our results support the need of bridging between social sciences, healthcare community service and the hospital setting, where frailty is particularly prevalent,” wrote lead author Martha Hawker, a student at the University of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine.

Hawker suggests improving nutrition, exercise and psychosocial supports for isolated patients.

Study results were published online in the Journal of Frailty & Aging.