Lonely people are a third more likely to suffer an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to new research.
British scientists from the universities of York, Liverpool and Newcastle examined data from over 181,000 people across 23 studies. Of all those individuals, 4,628 suffered from heart disease and 3,000 had a stroke, with experts finding a link between poor social relationships and incident cardiovascular disease.
They also noted the effect of loneliness is similar to that of work-stress or anxiety. People were 32 per cent more likely to have a stroke, and 29 per cent more prone to heart problems.
Scientists have long noted a correlation between being lonely and mental health and wellbeing, but this particular study is the largest to have shown the dramatic impact being alone has.
“Tackling loneliness and isolation may be a valuable addition to coronary heart disease and stroke prevention strategies,” authors noted of their findings, published in the journal Heart.
“Health practitioners have an important role to play in acknowledging the importance of social relations to their patients.”
Researcher Nicole Valtorta, of York University, stressed social isolation and loneliness shouldn’t be taken for granted like obesity and physical inactivity is, and hopes these findings will trigger more work to help the issue.
Dr Kellie Payne, from the Campaign to End Loneliness, further discussed the bigger picture of the problem.
“The effect of loneliness and isolation on mortality exceeds the impact of well-known risk factors such as obesity and cigarette smoking and this research helps to highlight yet further the need for loneliness to be treated as a serious public health issue,” she said.
“Loneliness is becoming a silent epidemic in our society. It’s the responsibility of our community as a whole to tackle it.”