WASHINGTON D.C. (USA): Lonely people are twice as likely to die from heart problems, according to a research. The study found that feeling lonely was a stronger predictor of poor outcomes than living alone, in both men and women. “Loneliness is more common today than ever before, and more people live alone,” said Anne Vinggaard Christensen of The Heart Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.
“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 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 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 Vinggaard Christensen.
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 Vinggaard Christensen.
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 behaviours and many other factors in our analysis, and still found that loneliness is bad for health.”
She concluded: “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.”
The study was presented at EuroHeartCare 2018, the European Society of Cardiology’s annual nursing congress.
The effect of loneliness isolation on men Men's mental health.
What we know about men’s loneliness
- Almost ¼ of men aged 30-65 (~ 1 million) are at risk of isolation
- 25% of men have no one outside of their immediate family to rely on
- 37% report they’re not satisfied with the quality of their relationships
- 61% have lost contact with more friends than they would have liked to
- 50% of men rarely talk about deep personal issues with friends
- 31% don’t spend much time talking to their friends in general
Are men lonelier than women?
Surprisingly, there’s a lot of research on how loneliness impacts men and women differently. There are studies that suggest that, at the very least, university/young adult aged males feel lonelier than their female counterparts. Two of these studies, ‘The lonely college male’ and ‘Gender differences in loneliness and depression of university students seeking counselling’, showed that men were 10% more likely to feel an ‘intense sense of loneliness’.
The latter study says the significantly different data between the sexes comes down to:
- Fewer males being in an emotional relationship
- Being unable to find a romantic partner
- Inability or difficulty making friends
- Self-reported lower esteem (thinking that they are ‘losers’)
- Higher levels of alcohol consumption
It doesn’t seem to get better with age either – one study shows that unmarried men and widowers are lonelier, while another shows older men are more socially isolated, have less contact with loved ones and are beginning to outlive their partners.
Why are men lonelier?
Men are more harshly judged for being lonelier and less likely to admit they’re lonely
There are several possible factors, the foremost of which is that men are less likely to admit they’re lonely in the first place. This same study found that subjects participating were more likely to be ‘rejecting’ of lonely males in comparison to females, which begs the question of which comes first: the rejection or the unwillingness to admit feelings of loneliness?
It’s been hypothesised that this difference may be caused by societal expectations of men to be ‘tougher’ or to show more resilience and independence.
Men need more friends, more activities, and more often
Another barrier is a combination of time, energy and organisation. A study (commissioned by Guinness, no less) showed there were health benefits to guys meeting up with three or four of their close friends twice a week, another study showing men tend to seek clubs as opposed to intense one-on-one relationships.
It follows that the chance to form this kind of bond is harder due to restrictions on time and energy.
Men rely on their partners for social interactions
Further, males follow the cues of their female partners’ social interactions. From Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age:
“In general, men rely more heavily on their partner to remain socially connected. When their partner dies, often a man’s social life shrinks.”
The previously mentioned Beyond Blue study similarly states that:
“Men living with a partner (regardless of whether this was with or without children) are significantly less likely to rate lack of social support/isolation as an issue (mean 3.8) than other groups (men living on their own – 4.3, living with friends – 4.5, and living with parents/family – 4.4).”
- Bran writes mostly on science and is an avid reader and writer of popular science. He brings sciency a literetic emphasis bring it to mainstream media for all.
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