Social isolation, loneliness increase risk of heart attack, stroke - study

Published date05 August 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
Social isolation is defined as having "few or infrequent social contacts," according to the article, while loneliness is defined as "perceived isolation that is distressing for the individual." While the two are related, they are distinct and operate through different pathways and have unique downstream effects on health

The risk of social isolation increases with age, as the elderly tend to be left alone due to factors such as widowhood and retirement. Nearly a quarter of US adults who are 65-years-old and older are socially isolated and between 22-47% are lonely.

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Social isolation and loneliness may have also increased during the coronavirus pandemic as people were stuck in lockdown and social distancing.

The writing group behind the article reviewed research on social isolation through July 2021 to examine the relationship among social isolation and cardiovascular and brain health.

The scientists found that social isolation and loneliness are common, but under-recognized determinants of cardiovascular and brain health. They also found a link between a lack of social connection and increased risk of premature death from all causes, especially among men.

Individuals who were less socially connected were found to be more likely to experience the physiological symptoms of chronic stress as well. Social isolation during childhood is associated with increased cardiovascular risk factors in adulthood, including obesity, high blood pressure and increased blood glucose levels, according to the article.

"Given the prevalence of social disconnectedness across the US, the public health impact is quite significant."

Crystal Wiley Cené, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, chair of the writing group for the scientific statement

"Over four decades of research has clearly demonstrated that social isolation and loneliness are both associated with adverse health outcomes," said Crystal Wiley Cené, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, chair of the writing group for the scientific statement, and professor of clinical medicine and chief administrative officer for health equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of California San Diego Health. "Given the prevalence of social disconnectedness across the US, the public health impact is quite...

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