Loneliness Increases Risk Of Heart Failure By 20% According To A New Study
If 2020 taught us anything, it was that being too lonely for too long is absolutely heartbreaking. And as recent studies are showing, there's some compelling science to prove that its physical effects are lasting.
In addition to some of the mental health effects of loneliness, such as depression and anxiety, new research shows it can also significantly increase your risk of heart failure.
A UK Biobank study1 including nearly half a million people set out to analyze the relationship between loneliness, social isolation, and heart failure over a 12-year period. Researchers found that both loneliness and social isolation increased the likelihood of heart failure resulting in hospitalization or death by 15 to 20%. Unsurprisingly, authors found that the link was most present when situations of loneliness or social isolation were considered severe.
Researchers noted that in future studies, they hope to learn more about the bodily mechanism linking loneliness to the heart. They also plan to study loneliness and social isolation's effects on other global health concerns.
This research has global ramifications. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in America, accounting for almost 20% of all deaths in the country2. In fact, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 40 seconds3. Heart complications are linked to many of the country's most pressing health concerns, including obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, and poor diet.
It's not surprising that loneliness is included in this list of factors, given the increasing amount of evidence showing that social relationships support overall health and life span4.
Protecting your heart.
Cardiovascular health is an essential consideration when making choices to improve your overall health and longevity. And because heart disease is linked to so many health concerns, you can address many of these with the same prescription: a healthy lifestyle.
This includes getting plenty of physical activity, managing stress, and getting adequate sleep. Eating a healthy diet is also one of the key measures the American Heart Association5 recommends for reducing one's risk of heart disease. Gut health has been linked to heart health, too, so be sure to load up on microbiome-friendly foods and probiotics. (Don't know where to start? Find our favorite high-quality probiotics here.)
And as new science now confirms, maintaining a healthy social calendar can also go a long way in protecting your heart. With the rise and persistence of our work-from-home era, the importance of being intentional with our social lives and building meaningful relationships is more important than ever.
Even those who lean toward introversion or experience social anxiety can find ways to stave off loneliness and isolation by embracing social settings that work for them, even if they occur less frequently and include fewer people.
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A study including nearly half a million people confirmed that social isolation and loneliness increase your risk of heart failure by up to 20%. It adds to a growing body of research that emphasizes the importance of strong social relationships to support the health of your mind and body.
Jenny is a San Francisco-based mbg health contributor, content designer, and climate & sustainability communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. An avid open-water swimmer, Jenny has worked for healthy living and nutrition brands like Sun Basket, Gather Around Nutrition, and Territory Foods.