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Loneliness can lead to early death from cardiovascular disease


Loneliness can lead to early death from cardiovascular disease

Loneliness is bad for the heart and a strong predictor of premature death, according to a study presented at EuroHeartCare 2018, annual nursing congress of the European Society of Cardiology. In both men and women, feeling lonely was a stronger predictor of poor outcomes than living alone, found the study.

Anne Vinggaard Christensen, Ph.D. student, The Heart Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, conducted the study to investigate the impact of loneliness and social isolation on health outcomes of patients with different types of cardiovascular disease.

“Loneliness is more common today than ever before, and more people live alone,” said Vinggaard Christensen. “Previous research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked with coronary heart disease and stroke, but this has not been investigated in patients with different types of cardiovascular disease.”

The study investigated whether poor social network was associated with worse outcomes in 13,463 patients with ischaemic heart disease, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), heart failure, or heart valve disease. Data from national registers was linked with the DenHeart survey, which asked all patients discharged from April 2013 to April 2014 from five heart centers in Denmark to answer a questionnaire about their physical and mental health, lifestyle factors such as smoking, and social support.

Social support was measured using registry data on living alone or not, and survey questions about feeling lonely – Do you have someone to talk to when you need it? Do you feel alone sometimes even though you want to be with someone? “It was important to collect information on both, since people may live alone but not feel lonely while others cohabit but do feel lonely,” explained Ms. Vinggaard Christensen.

Key Findings:

  • Feeling lonely was associated with poor outcomes in all patients regardless of their type of heart disease, and even after adjusting for age, level of education, other diseases, body mass index, smoking, and alcohol intake.
  • Loneliness was associated with a doubled mortality risk in women and nearly doubled risk in men.
  • Both men and women who felt lonely were three times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression, and had a significantly lower quality of life than those who did not feel lonely.

“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,” said Ms. Vinggaard Christensen.

Ms. Vinggaard Christensen noted that people with poor social support may have worse health outcomes because they have unhealthier lifestyles, are less compliant with treatment, and are more affected by stressful events. But she said: “We adjusted for lifestyle behaviors 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, concluded the author.

European guidelines on cardiovascular prevention state that people who are isolated or disconnected from others are at increased risk of developing and dying prematurely from coronary artery disease. The guidelines recommend assessment of psychosocial risk factors in patients with established cardiovascular disease and those at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

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Medha Baranwal

Medha Baranwal

Medha Baranwal joined Medical Dialogues as a Desk Editor in 2018 for Speciality Medical Dialogues. She covers several medical specialties including Cardiac Sciences, Dentistry, Diabetes and Endo, Diagnostics, ENT, Gastroenterology, Neurosciences, and Radiology. She has completed her Bachelors in Biomedical Sciences from DU and then pursued Masters in Biotechnology from Amity University. She can be contacted at medha@medicaldialogues.in. Contact no. 011-43720751
Source: With inputs from European Society of Cardiology

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