Loneliness Linked to Risk of Stroke and Heart Disease

Wednesday, 27th April 2016

Research by universities in York, Liverpool and Newcastle has found that loneliness and isolation may be linked to an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease or having a stroke.

Elderly Loneliness Stroke Risk

Social isolation has been found to cause premature deaths in elderly people just as a lack of physical activity or obesity have.

It is already known that loneliness and isolation can result in a lack of physical activity, smoking and a low self-esteem. Feeling lonely or being isolated is also linked to higher blood pressure and a less effective immune system. Researchers involved in this study therefore felt that, because loneliness and isolation may be key factors in people developing disease, dealing with them may be of benefit to public health and well-being.

This research involved a review of various papers to assess whether a link could be found between loneliness or social isolation and incident coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke. It was found that people who did not maintain good social relationships were associated with a 29% increased risk of a heart attack or angina attack, and a 32% increased risk of having a stroke.

Researcher’s involved in the study did caveat their findings by saying that one cannot infer cause from this review, nor can we exclude the potential impact of other unmeasured factors. However, they did conclude:

“The main finding of our review, that isolated individuals are at increased risk of developing CHD and stroke, supports public health concerns over the implications of social relationships for health and well-being. Our work suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high-income countries.”

Oliver Stirk, Director at Carefound Home Care, commented:

“We see the impact of loneliness and social isolation amongst elderly people everyday and with an ageing population and families living further apart this issue is likely to get worse. Companionship and helping older people to enjoy active, sociable lives is a key part of our hourly home care and live-in care services. We also see that there are huge benefits to preventing loneliness by staying at home such as friends, family and neighbours being able to pop in, being close to pets and attending local events and groups.”