A body of recent research suggests that feeling lonely contributes to cardiovascular disease. According to a brand-new study, loneliness contributes less to the risk of cardiovascular disease than recent research suggests, however, social isolation really does boost your risk of dying after a heart attack or stroke.
The alleged relationship between loneliness and cardiovascular disease essentially disappears once other well-known risk factors - think poor diet, smoking, drinking and lack of exercise - are factored in, according to the study, which monitored nearly 480,000 men and women in Britain for seven years. Keep reading for the full findings as published in the journal Heart.
Social isolation is an independent risk factor for mortality…
“Social isolation, but not loneliness ... remained as an independent risk factor for mortality,” the study team, led by Christian Hakulinen, a professor at the University of Helsinki, said.
Previous studies to tease out the influence of a solitary existence on cardiovascular disease and heart-related mortality had produced mixed results, partly due to the relatively small number of participants they looked at.
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New study confirms link between social isolation and cardiovascular disease death
For the new study, Hakulinen and his team drew from the Biobank cohort, in which 479,054 people between ages 40 and 69 were monitored for seven years. “To the best of our knowledge, our study is the largest on the topic,” the team said.
The participants provided detailed information on their lifestyle, ethnic background, education level and income, as well as any history of depression
. They also gauged their levels of loneliness and social isolation, which measures the amount of time spent alone or in the company of others.
The team found that nearly 10% of the participants qualified as socially isolated, 6% as lonely and 1% were both. The team cross-checked this personal data with the participants who suffered first-time heart attacks or strokes, as well as those who died. Once they accounted for other health-wrecking lifestyle habits, only social isolation remained a risk factor for cardiovascular disease or heart-related mortality.
Furthermore, a study published last year that looked at over 800,000 people from 12 countries found that walking through life alone also increases the chances of dementia
by about 40%. Being widowed after extended co-habitation boosted the odds of mental slippage by about 20%.