Living alone and seeing fewer people than normal increases the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke. At least, this is the conclusion of a large study of 479,000 Britons, asked about their feelings of loneliness and their degree of social isolation.
“Social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of serious myocardial infarction or stroke,” Finnish researchers write in the medical journal Heart on Tuesday. Social isolation appears to remain a risk factor for independent mortality after an infarction or stroke. ”
An increased mortality risk of 32%
The originality of this study was to isolate this factor from others. In fact, living alone often goes hand in hand with other risk factors for the heart, such as an unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity), poor mental health, or a situation of poverty. .
Excluding these other risks, the researchers concluded that living alone increased mortality by 32% after an infarction or stroke.
Solitude, a real social scourge
Social isolation and loneliness is a real social scourge in the western world. In 2016, according to a Crédoc survey for the Fondation de France, one in ten French people is alone, ie five million people over the age of 15 who only rarely meet and spend time with family, friends, neighbors or acquaintances. Recently in January 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the appointment of a Secretary of State for Isolated Persons to find solutions to the social scourge of loneliness.
Another study conducted in the United States on nearly three and a half million people had already found a link between social isolation and mortality. The researchers also found that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the individual risk of mortality.
The researchers believe that social isolation, ie not having social contacts in one’s daily life, and loneliness, promote the risk of cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, accelerate the deterioration of functions cognitive. In the end, people who live in isolation often suffer from sleep disorders. Their stress hormone increases and their immune system deteriorates, opening the door to diseases.
Two main reasons explain the impact of loneliness on our state of health: first social relations play a buffer role in case of a hard blow like the death of a relative. Then people who benefit from a social network have better lifestyle habits.
Unfortunately, it’s almost certain that the number of people affected by social isolation and loneliness will increase in the coming years. This is already visible in the United States where a quarter of the population lives in loneliness.