Study: Cardiovascular diseases increased by social isolation and loneliness

Study: Social isolation, loneliness linked to risk of cardiovascular disease
Study: Social isolation, loneliness linked to risk of cardiovascular disease

Washington [US], February 2 : Less is known about social isolation and loneliness’s specific relationship with heart failure , despite studies showing that these are significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease .

Social disconnection can be classified into two different, but connected, components. “Social isolation” refers to being objectively alone or having infrequent social connections, while “loneliness” is defined as a painful feeling caused when someone’s actual level of social interaction is less than they would like it to be.

The researchers found that both social isolation and loneliness increased the risk of hospitalization or death from heart failure by 15 percent to 20percent. However, they also found that social isolation was only a risk factor when loneliness was not also present. In other words, if a person was both socially isolated and felt lonely, loneliness was more important. Loneliness also increased risk even if the person was not socially isolated. Loneliness and social isolation were more common in men and were also associated with adverse health behaviors and status, such as tobacco use and obesity.

One reason for these findings might be because people can feel lonely even when they are in relationships or interact with others, Zhang said.

“These findings indicate that the impact of subjective loneliness was more important than that of objective social isolation,” he said. “These results suggest that when loneliness is present, social isolation is no more important in linking with heart failure. Loneliness is likely a stronger psychological stressor than social isolation because loneliness is common in individuals who are hostile or have stressful social relationships.”

“We shall pay more attention to those individuals feeling lonely for intervention,” he said. “For individuals who do not feel lonely, we shall screen for social isolation.”

In a related editorial comment, Sarah J. Goodlin, MD, researcher at Patient-Centered Education and Research, and Sheldon Gottlieb, MD, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said social isolation and loneliness are often impacted by an individual’s socioeconomic status.

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