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How does loneliness affect our health?
Cardiovascular diseases are widespread and can have life-threatening consequences for those affected. Researchers have now found that loneliness can double the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
In their current study, the scientists at Copenhagen University Hospital found that the feeling of loneliness is a strong indicator of premature death from cardiovascular diseases. The doctors published the results of their study at the conference of the European Society of Cardiology, EuroHeart 2018.
What do loneliness and social isolation do?
Loneliness is more common today than ever, and more and more people live alone, explains study author Anne Vinggaard Christensen from Copenhagen University Hospital. Previous research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked to coronary artery disease and stroke. At the time, however, this was not examined in more detail in patients with various types of cardiovascular diseases. The study found that people who felt lonely were three times more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, both men and women. These people also reported a much lower quality of life in general, the scientists explain.
Data from 13,463 subjects were analyzed
The current investigation included data from 13,463 patients who had either ischemic heart disease, cardiac arrhythmia (heart stumbling), heart failure or heart valve disease. The quality of the subjects' social network was assessed by linking data from national registers with the results of the so-called DenHeart survey.
The participants had to answer these questions
In the survey, patients were asked to answer questions about their physical and mental health and to indicate the social support they received, the researchers explain. Loneliness has been explored using two questions: Do you have someone to talk to when you need him? The second question was: Do you sometimes feel alone when you want to be with someone?
Who can experience social isolation?
It was important to collect data on patients who lived alone, the doctors say. But people with a family or relationship also had to be taken into account because they too can experience social isolation, emphasizes Vinggaard Christensen.
Loneliness is worse than living alone
Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death, poorer mental health and poorer quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease. In addition, the perceived loneliness is a much stronger influencing factor than whether someone lives alone or not, explains the study author.
Loneliness is common in society
We live in a time when loneliness is more present and health care providers should take this into account when assessing risk. The study shows that just two simple questions about social support provide a lot of information about the likelihood of poor health outcomes, the scientists add. (as)