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Lonely people have higher rates of chronic diseases: study

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

There’s a good chance that loneliness can kill you.

A recent study revealed that people who are lonely have a higher risk of heart attack — by more than 40 per cent — and social isolation can increase the chance of stroke by 39 per cent and premature death by up to 50 per cent, reported Mail Online.

Researchers arrived at this conclusion after analyzing the health records of 480,000 Britons. People with heart-related problems need to be surrounded by family and friends as they were far more likely to die early if they were isolated. Lonely people also showed more symptoms of depression.

“The message is that if we target the conventional risk factors then we could perhaps reduce the cardiovascular disease among those who are isolated or lonely,” Christian Hakulinen, the University of Helsinki expert who led the study, was quoted as saying by the publication. “It is also important we show that those who are socially isolated might have a worse prognosis after a heart attack or stroke.”

The study was conducted over a period of seven years, during which time researchers from University College London and Finland tracked 480,000 Britons aged between 40 and 69.

Social isolation, gender, ethnicity, lifestyle and socio-economic factors were taken into account, and researchers found out that those who already had cardiovascular problems were 50 per cent more likely to die if socially isolated.

Loneliness and social isolation could have a devastating impact on long-term heath, especially of older people, Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Royal College of GPs, said. “The reality is that loneliness and social isolation, particularly for older people, can be on a par in terms of its impact on health with suffering from a chronic long-term condition and, as this study shows, increase the likelihood of developing serious conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes.

“On the front line, GPs and our teams report seeing patients on a daily basis whose underlying problems are not primarily medical, but who are feeling socially isolated or lonely. As well as being distressing for patients, loneliness can also have a real impact on general practice and the wider NHS, at a time when the whole system is facing intense resource and workload pressures.”