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Loneliness 'bad for heart'

Monday June 11th, 2018

Loneliness and lack of social networks are bad for the heart and is also a strong predictor of premature death, according to a new Danish study.

The research, presented at EuroHeartCare 2018, found that in both men and women, feeling lonely was a stronger predictor of poor outcomes than living alone.

Study author Anne Vinggaard Christensen, from The Heart Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, told delegates that her research looked to establish if poor social networks were associated with worse outcomes in 13,463 patients with ischaemic heart disease, arrhythmia, 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 centres 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 were asked about feeling lonely.

She found that 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.

Ms Vinggaard Christensen said: “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.

“We adjusted for lifestyle behaviours and many other factors in our analysis, and still found that loneliness is bad for health.”

She said that health providers should take the risk of loneliness 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,” she added.

Tags: Europe | Heart Health | Mental Health

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