Loneliness and Heart Attacks

It’s no secret that loneliness is a problem that plagues people from all over the world. From those living alone to individuals suffering from depression to the people all over the country currently sheltering in place to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus, the melancholy feeling of being all alone is not to be taken lightly. As it turns out, there’s now research that proves this.

According to Copenhagen University Hospital’s lead researcher Anne Vinggaard Christensen, loneliness is an especially serious issue for heart patients: it brings an increased risk of death in the year that follows a hospitalization. The Danish heart scientist explains that this isn’t the first study to confirm this, either: “This study confirms what has also been indicated in previous research regarding the serious health consequences of loneliness,” she explained.

The doctors at Copenhagen University Hospital began by looking at 13,400 heart patients who were hospitalized and questioning them about their physical and psychological health, quality of life, and anxiety and depression levels. While the research isn’t enough to prove loneliness can cause death, it goes to show that there is an undeniable connection between them. Christensen argues that “loneliness should be considered a serious risk factor in patients with cardiac disease and should be included in risk evaluation of patients.”

George Mason University’s department of psychology professor emeritus James Maddux explained this phenomenon simply: “This study adds to the growing research on the perils of social isolation among people in general and among older adults over 60 in particular.” Lonely people are stressed, which lowers immune function. Combine this with unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, laziness, and lack of self-care that are typical of lonely or isolated individuals and you have a recipe for disaster — even more so with any recently hospitalized heart patients.

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