According to a new study, loneliness may raise the risk of a heart attack by more than 40 per cent.
The major study also suggests that social isolation can increase the chance of a stroke by 39 per cent and premature death by up to 50 per cent.
The analysis, the largest study of its kind, also adds that people with cardiovascular problems were far more likely to die early if they were isolated, suggesting the importance of family and friends in aiding recovery.
The research team, which included British academics, said lonely people had a higher rates of chronic diseases and smoking and showed more symptoms of depression.
Speaking about it, Christian Hakulinen, the University of Helsinki expert who led the study, said that having few social contacts was a risk factor for early death, particularly among those with pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
He added, “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.”
He further elaborated, “It is also important we show that those who are socially isolated might have a worse prognosis after a heart attack or stroke.”
According to the study, social isolation was associated with a 43 per cent higher risk of first-time heart attack when age, gender and ethnicity were factored in.
Once lifestyle and socio-economic factors were taken into account, this explained 84 per cent of the increased risk, suggesting the lonely and isolated were most vulnerable to well-known risks.
Similarly, social isolation was associated with a 39 per cent heightened chance of a first-time stroke, but the other conventional risk factors accounted for 83 percent of it.
The results were similar for loneliness and risk of first-time heart attack or stroke, according to the study in the medical journal Heart. Those who already had cardiovascular problems were 50 per cent more likely to die if socially isolated and still a quarter more likely to die once known risks had been accounted for....