Being alone may be more dangerous to your health than just being lonely, a team of British researchers has found.

Evaluating social isolation along with questionnaires on loneliness among adults 52 years and older, researchers from the University College, London, found that people who had low contact with others were more likely to die than those who reported feeling lonely but had higher contact with others. Those with relatively isolated lives were much more likely to die—with a “hazard ratio” of 1.26—than  those who felt lonely but were less isolated—a hazard ratio of 0.92—the researchers said in the most recent edition of Britain’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, if replicated, could have profound effects on long term care. The study suggests that social activities might be good for their own sake, even if they don’t affect individuals’ sense of morale.

“Both social isolation and loneliness were associated with increased mortality,” lead researcher Andrew Steptoe wrote for his team. “However, the effect of loneliness was not independent of demographic characteristics or health problems and did not contribute to the risk associated with social isolation.”

Researchers used data given by 6,500 adults to the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and also gave out “a standard questionnaire of loneliness” to the population, according to the study. Researchers then checked their data against mortality rates through March 2012.

Initially, their data jibed with previous studies that found that those who were isolated and felt lonely were more likely to die. “However,” Steptoe writes, “after adjusting statistically for demographic factors and baseline health, social isolation remained significantly associated with mortality.”

There appears to be a direct lesson for long term care providers: “Although both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being,” Steptoe writes, “efforts to reduce isolation are likely to be more relevant to mortality.”

The British study pushes back against what has increasingly become conventional wisdom that a senior’s loneliness is the Rosetta stone of his or her treatment. Last summer, the American Medical Association published a study of 1,604 seniors that found a senior’s sense of loneliness “was a predictor of functional decline and death.”