A current meta-analysis confirms that loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Scientists have already identified various pathomechanisms through which psychological stress can damage the heart and circulation. For one thing, unhappy or stressed people often cannot be motivated to exercise and eat healthily. In addition, an above-average number of people with depression smoke. The frequent loss of self-confidence means that mentally stressed people often do not have coping strategies in crisis situations. Finally, there are indications that psychological stress weakens the immune system and increases blood pressure.
The study authors now evaluated 23 studies that examined the influence of loneliness and social isolation on cardiovascular diseases. Overall, the data from 180,000 participants who had been observed for 3 to 21 years were included in the meta-analysis.
It was found that heart attacks or other coronary events were 29% more common in people with no social contacts than in people with social contacts. The number of strokes was increased by 32%. Both sexes were affected equally. You can find the study here. (pm)