Social isolation is defined as having infrequent in-person contact with people and loneliness is when a person feels he or she is alone or has less connection with others than desired.
More than 4 decades of research have “clearly demonstrated that social isolation and loneliness are both associated with adverse health outcomes. Given the prevalence of social disconnectedness across the US, the public health impact is quite significant
It’s estimated that one-quarter of community-dwelling Americans 65 years and older are socially isolated, with even more experiencing loneliness.
The problem is not limited to older adults, however. Some studies suggest that younger adults also experience social isolation and loneliness, which might be attributed to more social media use and less frequent personal activities.
Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, University of California San Diego Health and colleagues reviewed observational and intervention research on social isolation to examine the impact of social isolation and loneliness on cardiovascular and brain health. The evidence is most consistent for a direct association between social isolation, loneliness, and death from coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke.
One meta-analysis of 19 studies showed that social isolation and loneliness increase the risk for CHD by 29%; most of these studies focused on acute MI or CHD death as the measure of CHD.
A meta-analysis of eight longitudinal observational studies showed social isolation and loneliness were associated with a 32% increased risk for stroke, after adjustment for age, sex, and socioeconomic status.
One systematic review showed that socially isolated people with CHD had a two to three times increase in illness and death over 6 years, independent of cardiac risk factors. Other research suggests that socially isolated adults with three or fewer social contacts per month have a 40% increased risk for recurrent stroke or MI.
There is no strong data about the relation between social isolation and loneliness with dementia and cognitive issues. Also there are fewer results about whether being isolated or feeling isolated matter most with cardiovascular and brain health.
It is important to go with your doctor if you have one of these two conditions, the physicians may help you to feel better and prevent all the diseases associated with this problem.
Crystal W. Cené, Theresa M. Beckie, Mario Sims, Shakira F. Suglia, Brooke Aggarwal, Nathalie Moise, Monik C. Jiménez, Bamba Gaye, Louise D. McCullough (August 4, 2022) . Effects of Objective and Perceived Social Isolation on Cardiovascular and Brain Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. American Heart Association. Retrieved from: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.122.026493
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