Long term loneliness can increase the risk of having a stroke by more than half, research suggests.

Middle-aged people who reported feelings of isolation were significantly more likely to have a stroke over the next decade.

Those who experienced loneliness for several years were at greatest risk, according to the study by Harvard University.

Experts said it shows the public health threat of chronic loneliness and suggested screening people could help identify those in danger.

In 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared loneliness to be a significant global health threat, linking its mortality effects as equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Middle-aged people who reported feelings of isolation were significantly more likely to have a stroke over the next decade

Middle-aged people who reported feelings of isolation were significantly more likely to have a stroke over the next decade

Middle-aged people who reported feelings of isolation were significantly more likely to have a stroke over the next decade

While previous work has linked loneliness to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, researchers said this is one of the first to examine links specific to stroke over time.

They created a loneliness score using data from questionnaires involving more than 12,000 Americans, aged 50 and above, between 2006 and 2008.

Four years later, the same questions were asked again of the 8,936 people who remained in the study.

The participants were ranked as either ‘consistently low’, ‘remitting’ if they were previously but were no longer lonely, ‘recent onset’ if they score low at the start and high or ‘consistently high’ if lonely at both intervals.

During a follow up to 2018, there were a total of 1,237 strokes among all people questioned, falling to 601 among those who provided two assessments.

After controlling for factors such as social isolation and depressive symptoms – closely related to loneliness but distinct – researchers found those lonely at the start of the study had a 25 per cent higher risk of stroke than those not considered lonely.

The risk was greatest among those who scored consistently high – at 56 per cent more likely than those who consistently scored lowly, according to the findings published in eClinicalMedicine.

Dr Yenee Soh, research associate at the Harvard TH – Chan School of Public Health and lead author, said: ‘Loneliness is increasingly considered a major public health issue. Our findings further highlight why that is.

‘Especially when experienced chronically, our study suggests loneliness may play an important role in stroke incidence, which is already one of the leading causes of long-term disability and mortality worldwide.’

Dr Soh said people should be offered help based on their loneliness – which relates to how people feel even if surrounded by others – and not social isolation, which is different.

She added: ‘Repeat assessments of loneliness may help identify those who are chronically lonely and are therefore at a higher risk for stroke.

‘If we fail to address their feelings of loneliness, on a micro and macro scale, there could be profound health consequences.’

In older adults, loneliness is associated with a 50 per cent increased risk of developing dementia and a 30 per cent increased risk of incident coronary artery disease or stroke.

But incidence of loneliness is also reported to be increasing among the young.

Stroke symptoms are commonly remembered under this four-letter acronym, FAST. Patients experiencing a stroke can often have their face drop on one side, struggle to lift both arms and have slurred speech, while time is essential, as immediate treatment for a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke can substantially slash the risk of a much deadlier major stroke

Stroke symptoms are commonly remembered under this four-letter acronym, FAST. Patients experiencing a stroke can often have their face drop on one side, struggle to lift both arms and have slurred speech, while time is essential, as immediate treatment for a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke can substantially slash the risk of a much deadlier major stroke

Stroke symptoms are commonly remembered under this four-letter acronym, FAST. Patients experiencing a stroke can often have their face drop on one side, struggle to lift both arms and have slurred speech, while time is essential, as immediate treatment for a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke can substantially slash the risk of a much deadlier major stroke

Other - just as common - tell-tale signs of a looming stroke, often fall under the radar. These include sudden numbness on one side of the body, sudden vertigo and difficulty swallowing

Other - just as common - tell-tale signs of a looming stroke, often fall under the radar. These include sudden numbness on one side of the body, sudden vertigo and difficulty swallowing

Other – just as common – tell-tale signs of a looming stroke, often fall under the radar. These include sudden numbness on one side of the body, sudden vertigo and difficulty swallowing

Age UK urged the new Government to make it a priority but said everyone can ‘do their bit’ by having friendly chats with older people.

Director Caroline Abrahams, said: ‘Loneliness sucks the joy out of life for far too many of us as we age. It can undermine resilience to the stresses and strains of life and leave us feeling disconnected and left behind. In turn, that can have an impact on our health. Feeling low can make it that much harder to look after our health properly and manage a health condition. It may mean we feel that there is nowhere to turn when we are worried about a health problem and that can put us off seeking help.

‘The Government needs to make preventing and tackling loneliness a policy priority, backed up with the funding required to help older people to avoid loneliness or reconnect for those who are already experiencing it.

‘At Age UK we are calling on the next Government to take a lead with a refreshed national loneliness strategy, delivered by a dedicated Minister and supported by a cross governmental team.’

Source: Mail Online

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

4 Planets Will Align in Mystical Pisces on April 4, 2024, Pushing You To Dream Big

You might assume that the date 4/4, especially in the year 2024,…

The 9 Best Hoka Sneakers for Women That Offer Unparalleled Comfort and Performance

With the Well+Good SHOP, our editors put their years of know-how to…

Overweight children have lower intelligence and are more likely to be depressed, controversial study finds

Overweight kids are less intelligent as their slimmer peers, controversial research today…