The risk of social isolation increases with age due to important factors such as widowhood and retirement. Nearly a quarter of American adults age 65 and older are socially isolated, and the prevalence of loneliness is even higher, with estimates ranging from 22 to 47 percent. However, young adults also experience social isolation and loneliness.
The data also suggests that social isolation and loneliness may increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among young adults aged 18-25 years, older adults, women and those with low incomes.
Social isolation and loneliness are associated with a 30% increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke, or dying of both, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association published in the Scientific Journal of the American Heart Association.
“More than four decades of research has clearly shown that social isolation and loneliness are both associated with adverse health outcomes. Given the prevalence of social disruption, the public health impact is considerable,” said Crystal Wiley. President of the Scientific Statement Sene Writing Group, and Professor of Clinical Medicine and Managing Director of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of California San Diego Health (United States).
The writing group reviewed social isolation research published as of July 2021 to examine the relationship between social isolation and heart and brain health. They found that social isolation and loneliness are common, yet under-recognized, determinants of heart and brain health.
According to their findings, lack of social connection is associated with an increased risk of premature death from all causes, especially in men. Similarly, isolation and loneliness have been associated with elevated inflammatory markers, and individuals who had fewer social connections were more likely to experience physical symptoms of chronic stress.
When evaluating risk factors for social isolation, the association between social isolation and its risk factors goes both ways: depression can lead to social isolation, and social isolation can increase the likelihood of experiencing depression.
They have also shown that social isolation during childhood is associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk factors in adulthood, such as obesity, high blood pressure and increased blood glucose levels.
Socio-environmental factors, such as transportation, living conditions, dissatisfaction with family ties, epidemics and natural disasters are also factors that affect social relationships.
“There is strong evidence linking social isolation and loneliness with an increased risk of worsening heart and brain health in general; however, data on associations with certain outcomes, such as heart failure, dementia and cognitive decline, are rare. are”, details sene.
The evidence is more consistent about the relationship between social isolation, loneliness, and death from heart disease and stroke, a 29 percent increase in the risk of heart attack and/or death from heart disease, and the risk of stroke and death. has increased by 32 percent. the strokes.
In this regard, the researchers say, “Social isolation and loneliness are associated with worse prognosis in individuals who already have coronary heart disease or stroke.”
Socially isolated people with heart disease had a two to three-fold increase in the number of deaths during the six-year follow-up study. Socially isolated adults, those with three or fewer social contacts per month, may have a 40 percent increased risk of recurrent stroke or heart attack.
In addition, the 5-year heart failure survival rate was lower (60%) for those who were socially isolated, and compared to those who were socially isolated and medically isolated. were depressed (62%), compared to those who have more social interactions and are not depressed. (79%).