The review involving Barbara Hanratty, Professor of Primary Care and Public Health in the Institute for Ageing found that loneliness and poor social relationships were associated with a 29 % increase in risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) and a 32 % increase in risk of stroke.
In the paper published in BMJ Heart, the authors say efforts to prevent CHD and stroke may benefit from taking social isolation and loneliness into account.
Professor Barbara Hanratty said: “This study emphasises the importance of loneliness and social isolation to public health.
“In recent years, we have seen rapid changes in the way we interact with friends and family, and the number of single person households is increasing amongst the older population in particular. It is vital that we acknowledge and address the role of social relationships in promoting health and wellbeing and preventing disease.”
The researchers undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis using data from previously published studies to investigate the association between loneliness or social isolation and incidents of CHD and stroke.
They searched 16 electronic databases for long-term studies set in high-income countries and published up until May 2015. They screened over 32,000 references to identify the 23 studies suitable for analysis. A total of 4,628 incidents of CHD and more than 3,000 stroke events were recorded across the studies, which involved more than 180,000 people aged 18 or above.
The work involved researchers from the University of York and was funded through a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) doctoral fellowship for Nicole Valtorta, supervised by Professor Hanratty.
Newcastle University is a world leader in the field at its Campus for Ageing and Vitality which is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre and the location for a new £40m National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation (NASI).
Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. Valtorta NK, Kanaan M ,Gilbody,S, Ronzi S, Hanratty B.
BMJ Heart: doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308790
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