People who are socially isolated are more than 40 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, than people who are socially integrated, according to new research.
The German study also found that people who are socially isolated are almost 50 percent more likely to die from any cause, according to researchers at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany.
During the study, the researchers also discovered that a lack of financial support independently increased the risk of cardiovascular events.
The new study was performed within the Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) study, a population-based study in Germany that aims to improve the prediction of cardiovascular events by integrating new imaging and non-imaging methods in risk assessment.
Led by Dr. Janine Gronewold and Professor Dirk M. Hermann, the research for the new study analyzed data from 4,316 individuals who were recruited into the large community-based study between 2000 and 2003. The average age of the study participants was 59.1 years, the researchers reported.
The study participants entered the study with no known cardiovascular disease and were followed for an average of 13 years.
At the start of the study, information was collected on different types of social support, with social integration assessed based on marital status and cohabitation, contact with close friends and family, and membership in political, religious, community, sports, or professional organizations, the researchers explained.
“We have known for some time that feeling lonely or lacking contact with close friends and family can have an impact on your physical health,” said Gronewold. “What this study tells us is that having strong social relationships is of high importance for your heart health and similar to the role of classical protective factors, such as having a healthy blood pressure, acceptable cholesterol levels, and a normal weight.”
“This observation is of particular interest in the present discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic, where social contacts are or have been relevantly restricted in most societies,” added Professor K.H. Jöckel, one of the principal investigators of the HNR study.
During the 13.4 years of follow-up, 339 cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or strokes, occurred, according to the study’s findings. There were 530 deaths among the study participants, the researchers reported.
After adjusting for other factors that might have contributed to these cardiovascular events and deaths (for example, standard cardiovascular risk factors), a lack of social integration was found to increase the future risk of cardiovascular events by 44 percent and to increase the risk of death from all causes by 47 percent, according to the researchers.
A lack of financial support was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events, the researchers added.
“We don’t understand yet why people who are socially isolated have such poor health outcomes, but this is obviously a worrying finding, particularly during these times of prolonged social distancing,” said Gronewold.
“What we do know is that we need to take this seriously, work out how social relationships affect our health, and find effective ways of tackling the problems associated with social isolation to improve our overall health and longevity,” concluded Hermann.
The study was presented in May 2020 at the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Virtual Congress.
Source: Spink Health
Source: PsychCentral Social Isolation Can Hike Risk of Death from All Causes