Loneliness Increases Heart Risk
Feeling a lack of companionship isn’t just a psychological state, according to findings published this week in the journal Heart. It can have serious physical repercussions.
The new study concluded that loneliness and isolation are just as serious a risk factor for heart disease and stroke as anxiety and a stressful job are. A person's social relationships (or lack thereof) can impact their health in several ways.
Health-risk behaviors related to isolation, include increased sedentary behavior and smoking, and loneliness is linked to lower self-esteem, depression and sleep problems. Both isolation and loneliness have been linked to a reduced immune response and higher blood pressure.
Researchers reviewed data for 181,000 individuals, who totaled 4,628 coronary heart disease events and 3,002 strokes. Although loneliness was known to play a significant role in premature mortality, the results were a surprise to investigators.
Loneliness and social isolation was associated with a 29% increase in coronary heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. These numbers are comparable to other recognized risk factors such as anxiety and a stressful job, and equivalent to that of light smoking. And the results show the risk is even greater than that of obesity and hypertension.
Over a million people over 65 are believed to be suffering from loneliness. It’s an issue that demands attention, and it certainly will become an increasingly important public health concern as people live longer lives.