Loneliness is literally bad for the heart, doubles mortality risk
New research from the European Society Of Cardiology has found that loneliness is bad for the heart and overall well-being. Feelings of loneliness were found to be a stronger predictor of premature death than living alone in both men and women.
Study co-author Anne Vinggaard Christensen is a PhD student at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.
“Loneliness is more common today than ever before, and more people live alone,” said Vinggaard Christensen. “Previous research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked with coronary heart disease and stroke, but this has not been investigated in patients with different types of cardiovascular disease.”
The investigation was focused on 13,463 patients with ischaemic heart disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, or heart valve disease.
The researchers analyzed social support using data from the DenHeart survey, which was conducted as patients were discharged from heart centers in Denmark. The individuals reported on topics such as whether or not they lived alone, felt lonesome, or had someone to talk to when needed.
“It was important to collect information on both, since people may live alone but not feel lonely while others cohabit but do feel lonely,” explained Vinggaard Christensen.
Regardless of factors including body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, age, and type of heart disease, loneliness correlated with poor health outcomes in all patients.
Overall, loneliness doubled mortality risk in women and nearly doubled mortality risk in men. Patients who felt lonely were three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, and had a significantly lower quality of life than those who did not feel lonely.
“Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death, worse mental health, and lower quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease, and a much stronger predictor than living alone, in both men and women,” said Vinggaard Christensen.
She also noted that people with poor social support may be more prone to health complications because they are less compliant with treatment, more affected by stressful events, and their lifestyles are less healthy.
“We adjusted for lifestyle behaviors and many other factors in our analysis, and still found that loneliness is bad for health,” said Vinggaard Christensen.
“We live in a time when loneliness is more present and health providers should take this into account when assessing risk. Our study shows that asking two questions about social support provides a lot of information about the likelihood of having poor health outcomes.”
The research was presented at EuroHeartCare 2018, the European Society of Cardiology’s annual nursing congress.