VIENNA – Social isolation is a word on top of all languages nowadays. Staying away from others during this pandemic protects us, but a new study finds that prolonged social isolation is also quite dangerous.
Researchers warn that socially isolated people are more than 40% more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or other major cardiovascular event. Moreover, the socially isolated are almost 50% more likely to die from any cause.
There is also a link between the lack of financial support and increased cardiovascular risk.
The study was conducted by Dr. Janine Groneuld and Professor Dirk M. Herman of the University Hospital in Essen, Germany. They analyzed data on 431
All of these participants initially had no known cardiovascular problems and were followed for an average of 13 years. Initially, each adult answered questions about their social support systems (marital status, number of close friends, membership in various groups, clubs, organizations, etc.).
“We have known for some time that feelings of loneliness or lack of contact with close friends and family can affect your physical health,” Dr. Groneuld said in a statement. “What this study tells us is that having strong social connections is important for your heart health and similar to the role of classic protective factors such as healthy blood pressure, acceptable cholesterol levels and a normal weight.”
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“This observation is of particular interest in the current discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic, where social contacts are or have been severely limited in most societies,” added Prof. Jokel, one of HNR’s PIs.
During the follow-up period of 13.4 years, 339 major cardiovascular events (heart attacks, strokes) occurred, as well as 530 deaths. Even after the research team considered other potentially contributing risk factors (medical history, exercise regimen, etc.), social isolation was still associated with a 44% increased risk of cardiovascular events and a 47% increased risk of death from any is the reason. The lack of financial support was associated with a 30% increase in cardiovascular risk.
“We still don’t understand why people who are socially isolated have such poor health outcomes, but that’s obviously a worrying finding, especially in these times of prolonged social distancing,” says Dr. Gronewald.
“What we do know is that we need to take this seriously, understand how social relationships affect our health, and find effective ways to deal with social exclusion issues to improve our overall health and longevity.” , concludes Professor Herman.
The study was published in European Journal of Neurology.
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