Lonely people are twice as likely to die from heart problems, new research suggests.
A lack of social support may cause people to lead unhealthy lifestyles, as well as making them more vulnerable to stress and less likely to take their medications, a study found.
Although the study did not specify the unhealthy lifestyle habits lonely people may have, these could include a poor diet, inactivity, smoking and drinking excessively.
Study author Anne Vinggaard Christensen, from Copenhagen University, said: ‘Loneliness is more common today than ever before, and more people live alone.
‘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.’
Approximately 42.6 million adults over 45 in the US report being lonely. One-quarter of the population also lives alone.
In the UK, 3.9 million people say the television is their main source of company.
Lonely people are twice as likely to die from heart problems, new research suggests (stock)
ARE FASTING DIETS GOOD FOR THE HEART?
Following a ‘fashionable’ fast for just one week can damage the heart, research suggested in February 2018.
Obese people who suddenly lower their calorie intake to just 600-to-800 units a day, experience heart-fat level increases of 44 per cent, a trial found today.
Despite such dieters on average losing six per cent of their total body fat after just seven days, this fat is released into their bloodstream and absorbed by their hearts, the researchers explained.
Although this excess heart fat balances out by week eight of dieting, for people with heart problems, it could leave them breathless and with an irregular beat, the scientists add.
Study author Dr Jennifer Rayner from the University of Oxford, said: ‘Otherwise healthy people may not notice the change in heart function in the early stages.
‘But caution is needed in people with heart disease.’
Heart disease, which is linked to obesity, affects more than 1.6 million men and one million women in the UK.
Dr Rayner added:’The heart muscle prefers to choose between fat or sugar as fuel and being swamped by fat worsens its function.
‘People with a cardiac problem could well experience more symptoms at this early time point, so the diet should be supervised.
‘Otherwise healthy people may not notice the change in heart function in the early stage.’
The researchers analysed 21 obese volunteers with an average age of 52 and a BMI of 37kg/metre squared.
The study’s participants ate a very low-calorie diet every day for eight weeks.
MRI scans were taken at the start and end of the investigation, as well as after week one.
‘We live in a time when loneliness is more present’
Results suggest loneliness doubles the risk of women dying from heart problems, while men are nearly twice as likely as likely to pass away due to a lack of social interaction.
Loneliness also increases both men and women’s risk of anxiety and depression by three times and significantly lowers their quality of life.
Ms Vinggaard Christensen said: ‘We adjusted for lifestyle behaviours and many other factors in our analysis, and still found that loneliness is bad for health.
‘We live in a time when loneliness is more present and health providers should take this into account when assessing risk.
‘Our study shows that asking two questions about social support provides a lot of information about the likelihood of having poor health outcomes.’
How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed 13,463 people with heart disease, heart failure or an abnormal heart rhythm.
They also had all patients discharged from five heart centres in Denmark between April 2013 and April 2014 to complete a questionnaire regarding their physical and mental health, as well as their social-support networks.
Social support was determined by whether the patients lived at home.
Survey questions included – ‘do you have someone to talk to when you need it?’ and ‘do you feel alone sometimes even though you want to be with someone?’.
The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual nursing conference in Dublin.
Loneliness is as great a health risk as obesity
This comes after research released last August suggested loneliness is as great a health risk as obesity.
Social connections reduce the risk of dying early by 50 per cent, a study review found.
Being isolated or living alone significantly increase the chance of dying prematurely at a rate equal to, or greater than, obesity, the research adds.
Previous findings link loneliness with a reduced quality of life and therefore a shorter life expectancy.
Study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, from Brigham Young University, said: ‘There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.’