Loneliness CAN be a killer: Living in isolation can increase the risk of dying early by almost 50%, researchers say
- Those with little contact with friends or family 50% higher odds of dying early
- People who don’t belong to sports or community groups also face those odds
- Socially isolated people were 44% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke
It seems loneliness really can be deadly.
Those who have little contact with friends and family and don’t belong to sports or community groups have almost 50 per cent higher odds of dying early, say researchers.
They also found that the socially isolated are 44 per cent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, or to die from these.
‘Lacking contact with close friends and family, and feeling a lack of support from them, can have an impact on your physical health,’ said Dr Janine Gronewold, a co-author of the German research.
A study found people who have little contact with family and friends and don’t belong to sports or community groups have nearly 50 per cent higher odds of dying early
‘Socially isolated people may react more strongly to stress, or suffer from depression, which both have a physical effect.
‘The effect seems to be stronger for men than for women, and that may be because men in stable partnerships live more healthily, going out for walks or being told by their partner to eat better.
‘However, social isolation is not all about face-to-face contact, and people can benefit from getting in touch over the phone.’
The study, led by the University Hospital in Essen, looked at 4,139 individuals who were given a score based on their level of social contact.
They were followed up for an average of 13 years, during which 530 died and 339 had a fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke.
Social isolation was based on a score out of six, with married and co-habiting people, for example, getting two points, while the single, divorced and widowed scored zero.
Individuals received one point if they were a member of one voluntary association, such as a church, community group or political party, and two points if they had joined two or more.
One point was scored for those who saw three to 11 friends or relatives at least once a month, and two points was scored for seeing 12 or more.
Overall, those who scored zero or one out of six were judged socially isolated. Compared to those with a higher score, they were 47 per cent more likely to die from any cause.
The study, published in the journal Heart, is due to be presented at the European Academy of Neurology Virtual Congress.
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