Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death, worse mental health, and lower quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.
“Previous research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked with coronary heart disease and stroke, but this has not been investigated in patients with different types of cardiovascular disease.”
Christensen investigated whether poor social network was associated with worse outcomes in 13,463 patients with ischemic heart disease, arrhythmia, heart failure or heart valve disease.
She used data from national registers and the DenHeart survey, which asked participants to answer a questionnaire about their physical and mental health, lifestyle factors such as smoking, and social support.
“Social support was measured using registry data on living alone or not, and survey questions about feeling lonely: do you have someone to talk to when you need it? do you feel alone sometimes even though you want to be with someone?” Christensen explained.
“It was important to collect information on both, since people may live alone but not feel lonely while others cohabit but do feel lonely.”
Feeling lonely was associated with poor outcomes in all patients regardless of their type of heart disease, and even after adjusting for age, level of education, other diseases, body mass index, smoking, and alcohol intake.
Loneliness was associated with a doubled mortality risk in women and nearly doubled risk in men.
Both men and women who felt lonely were three times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression, and had a significantly lower quality of life than those who did not feel lonely.
“People with poor social support may have worse health outcomes because they have unhealthier lifestyles, are less compliant with treatment, and are more affected by stressful events,” the scientist said.
“We live in a time when loneliness is more present and health providers should take this into account when assessing risk.”
“Our study shows that asking two questions about social support provides a lot of information about the likelihood of having poor health outcomes.”
Christensen presented her findings June 9 at the EuroHeartCare 2018, the European Society of Cardiology’s annual nursing congress, in Dublin, Ireland.
Anne Vinggaard Christensen. Poor social network is associated with impaired self-rated health and symptoms of anxiety and depression across cardiac diagnoses. EuroHeartCare 2018, abstract # 241