Friday, February 3, 2023

Loneliness, a public health problem that increases disease risk

Experts agree that unwanted isolation is an ‘epidemic’ that causes heart and mental illnesses.

In the elderly, loneliness begins, for example, with a fall, retirement, or widowhood, which lead to social isolation. Photo: shutterstock.

Various health authorities and neurology experts confirm that lack of company harms health, including unwanted loneliness, comparable to smoking, obesity or pollution, as it is considered a risk factor for mortality .

In this regard, the Argentine neuroscientist, Dr. Facundo Manes, defines loneliness as “a biological alarm that reminds us that we are social animals.”

Studies Show Consequences of Loneliness on Health

The scientific community has proven that loneliness and social isolation Increase the risk of mortality, other cardiovascular diseases, stroke, dementia and sleep problems by about 30%. mental health like depression.

Proof of this is a recent study published in the journal JAMA Surgery which also warned that loneliness has a negative impact on the later development of older adults.

On the other hand, a 2021 document from the World Health Organization claims that 20% to 34% of older people in China, Europe, Latin America and the United States feel lonely.

In this sense, a study published in November after studying more than 4,000 older adults found that loneliness was associated with a higher likelihood of death within 30 days among patients undergoing urgent surgery. “The results suggest that loneliness may be a social determinant in the postnatal period,” the researchers said.

Lack of companionship kills and makes you ill. A 2015 scientific review estimated that loneliness and social isolation And living alone increased the risk of death by 26%, 29% and 30%, respectively. “Loneliness kills like diseases. And it creates more diseases, as if it were a waterfall”, said Esther Roquer, president of the Geriatrics Society of the Academy of Medical Sciences of Catalonia.

Loneliness affects older adults to a greater extent

It is noteworthy that loneliness in the elderly begins, for example, with a fall, retirement or widowhood. For Roquer, fragility marks a turn toward undeserved loneliness and an increase in social isolation This leads to a decrease in the ability to perform normal activities.

Poor social relationships are also associated with a 30% increased risk of serious cardiovascular problems or stroke. A review of studies published in the Journal of Public Health states that adults with social isolation People with strong social ties are 2 to 3 times more likely to die after a heart attack, while those with strong social ties are 50% more likely to survive.

Importance of Doctors Considering Loneliness as a Cardiovascular Risk Factor

Maria Rosa Fernandez, president of the Vascular Risk and Cardiorespiratory Rehabilitation Association of the Spanish Society of Cardiology, spoke about how aware people and medical professionals are about the effects of loneliness on heart health.

“This is fundamental. A patient who has already faced this type of event and lives alone is more likely to suffer from these types of problems again. The risk of stalling is high”, he said.

refering to mental healthLoneliness is associated with poor lifestyle habits, such as increased consumption of tobacco or alcohol, and these harmful behaviors are exacerbated, in turn, if one is exposed to healthier behaviors or health advice as a result of fewer social contacts. .

Loneliness: A Vicious Cycle for Diseases

Experts agree that the explanation of how loneliness mediates the disease is still unclear. But some experts see it as a kind of vicious cycle that feeds on itself.

One of the hypotheses is that loneliness triggers a neuroendocrine response: “People who feel lonely or are perceived as socially isolated may show activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, chronic stress, may show an increased response to high blood pressure and high cortisol levels in the blood”, explains a recent British study.

It makes sense, explains Fernandez: “The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is that it is triggered in situations of stress and loneliness causes stress.”

Cardiologists, however, also stress the influence of lifestyle: “All social and psychosocial factors have an impact on heart health. The exact reason is not known, but the lifestyle is not the same.”

From a psychological perspective, the British researchers also emphasize that loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression and suicide, as well as interrelated behaviors and habits that worsen cardiovascular health.

“People who are both lonely and socially isolated are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and make poor dietary choices. They are less likely to leave their homes to exercise regularly and get prescribed There is poor adherence to medication,” the researchers said.

It’s not that loneliness causes dementia, explained Dr. Teresa Moreno, coordinator of the Neurogeriatrics Study Group of the Spanish Society of Neurology, but that it exacerbates its symptoms.

“There are things that make symptoms more noticeable and social isolation And depression speeds up the progression of dementia: the more you use your head, the less noticeable the symptoms; Being around people, having a social life, alleviates them and the longer we can avoid these symptoms, the better”, explained the neurologist.

To all these physical and psychological variables, it is added that isolated people visit emergency health services less often and seek less help. “What we found is just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes these people are so isolated that we can’t reach them. You have to go looking for them,” admitted Roker.

Loneliness affects young people too

Although loneliness and social isolation They touch older people more, young people are no exception to suffer from this phenomenon. Several investigations have warned of a link between increased loneliness and tobacco consumption in this group.

Experts call for more attention to this phenomenon and therapeutic options to deal with its impact on health. There’s no pill or syrup to cure loneliness, but there are strategies to reduce its damage.

Source consulted here.

Nation World News Desk
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