Loneliness is Linked to an Early Death

The human connection is vital for survival. Bouts of solitude can be good for the soul, but our species depends on its social structures for support and overall health. The American Psychological Association states that the use of solitary confinement in prison settings puts people at risk for severe psychological risks – and there is a growing movement to put an end to its use. The feeling of loneliness, which we are all capable of experiencing, also carries some serious risks – including premature death.

Existing research tells us that the strong emotion is linked to coronary heart disease and stroke, but other types of cardiovascular diseases had not yet been investigated. Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital’s Heart Centre looked into the effects of social isolation on people with ischemic heart disease, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), heart failure and heart valve disease. Not only did they collect data on whether or not the patients were living alone or not, but also how lonely they felt and whether they had with whom they could talk, when needed.

The study found that loneliness was associated with poorer health outcomes, regardless of their cardiovascular disease diagnosis. Women who reported high levels of loneliness had twice the risk of mortality than those who reported little to no loneliness and men yielded nearly the same results. Knowing that certain factors (such as noncompliance with treatment, unhealthy lifestyles, stressful life events) may confound the findings, they controlled for as many of those lifestyle factors as they could and still found a significant association.

“Loneliness is more common today than ever before, and more people live alone,” study author and PhD student Anne Vinggaard Christensen said. “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.”

The findings were presented at EuroHeartCare 2018, the European Society of Cardiology’s annual nursing congress. European guidelines for how medical professionals handle cardiovascular disease prevention include assessments for “psychosocial risks”, including social isolation. Right now, the American Heart Association has recommendations for healthy eating, physical activity, weight management, workplace health and non-smoking information, as well as a section about stress management – but not specifically how social factors such as loneliness can impact cardiovascular risk.

For better heart and vascular health, doctors and patients everywhere should become more informed about these risks to help reduce cardiovascular deaths worldwide.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

37 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

TYFS

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Jessica K
Jessica K9 months ago

Interesting how stress studies don't control for loneliness...... that would seem to be a factor in stress related situations. Thanks.

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Amanda M
Amanda M10 months ago

As a Wiccan, working-class, Democrat, stay-at-home mom living in a town that is more Republican and Christian than anything else (to the point where virtually all social activities here are church-related), there is basically NOTHING here that I can get into. I'm non-Christian, everything costs money we don't have (not just for fees, but for gas to get to the county seat), and since I'm the only one who can haul the kids to their activities (my husband works odd hours and open-to-close shifts at his job), their activities take precedence over my attempting to get a life. Throw in the fact that I've NEVER made friends easily (it takes two years at a MINIMUM to trust someone enough to consider the option), and lately every time I've made a friend is exactly when the friendship dissolves over religious or political views (why should I hide in the closet when everybody else doesn't have to?). After ten years of that, I'm tired of wasting so much time even trying when the so-called "friends" bail on me anyway. I guess I'd better start planning my funeral so that when I do cross over at least my family will get my religion right! I wish people would stop treating us odd ducks like we're evil incarnate or Typhoid Mary or a combination. We're PEOPLE, dammit! Don't friggin' judge us!

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Edith B
Edith B10 months ago

I believe this.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson10 months ago

Thank you.

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Winnie A
Winn Adams10 months ago

Thanks

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Winnie A
Winn Adams10 months ago

Noted

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R10 months ago

Thanks for posting.

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Lisa M
Lisa M10 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M10 months ago

Thanks.

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