Loneliness and social isolation have been identified as presenting a 30% increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease, according to researchers from York, Liverpool and Newcastle universities.
The study, published in medical journal Heart, scrutinised previous research involving 181,000 adults, and found that feelings of loneliness were linked with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of having a stroke.
Both conditions are among the most major causes of death in developed countries including the UK, and with over half of over 75s living alone, the problems can be particularly pronounced amongst elderly people.
The publication of this study has coincided with the release of new figures from Campaign to End Loneliness, which found:
17% of older people are in contact with family less than once per week (11% less than once per month)
Two fifths (3.9 million) of older people cite the television as their main source of company
59% of people aged 52 or over who report poor health state that they feel lonely ‘some of the time’ or ‘often’ (compared to 21% who claim to be in ‘excellent’ health)
63% of widowers and 51% of divorced adults aged 52 or over stated that they feel lonely ‘some of the time’ or ‘often’
Loneliness has previously been linked to other serious health conditions, such as a weakened immune system, high blood pressure and premature death.
The researchers stressed that the study was observational and the effects of unmeasured factors couldn’t be excluded. However, a representative stated: “Our work suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high-income countries”.
Fiona Lowry, our CEO, commented: “This research underlines how important it is for older people to engage regularly with friends and loved ones, and to ensure they know that there’s someone to turn to if they are in need. A key facet of our live-in care services is to provide a level of day-to-day companionship that can improve both the physical health and emotional wellbeing of our clients.”