Loneliness as a risk factor for premature death

Loneliness as a risk factor for premature death

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Do lonely people die earlier?

Loneliness increases the risk of premature death in men and women with heart problems. This suggests that loneliness is not only a serious risk for various health events, but can also lead to premature death.

The latest study by Copenhagen University Hospital found that loneliness in people with heart disease is associated with the risk of premature death. The results of the investigation were published in the English-language BMJ journal "Heart".

Data from over 13,000 people were evaluated

The researchers examined the mortality rates of 13,446 people with coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rhythm, heart failure or heart valve disease over the course of a year after discharge from a specialized heart center.

What factors were considered in the study?

When they were discharged, the patients reported about their physical health, their psychological well-being, their quality of life, and the extent of anxiety and depression. In addition, information about lifestyle, smoking, alcohol consumption and medication taken was also evaluated. The research group also determined whether the patients were living alone. A year later, they used the national registry to find out how people's heart health has changed and how many died.

Premature death from loneliness

When evaluating the data, it was found that lonely heart patients have an increased risk of dying early. Lonely women die three times more often than women who are not lonely. Lonely men died more than twice as often during the study period compared to men who did not feel lonely. One could say that loneliness is a very serious health risk factor, according to the research team.

Lonely people have more physical and mental problems

Regardless of the diagnosis, loneliness was associated with significantly weaker physical health. When patients reported feeling lonely, they suffered from anxiety and depressive symptoms almost three times as often. Affected people had a significantly poorer quality of life than people who did not suffer from loneliness. The subjective feeling was decisive, not whether people lived alone.

People living alone were less likely to experience anxiety and depression

Life alone was not automatically associated with the feeling of loneliness. In fact, people living alone were less at risk of anxiety and depression than people living with other people. Possible reasons for this are that the older population groups covered in the study are more likely to live with another sick person and that social relationships can have a negative impact, the researchers explain. However, living alone is associated with a higher risk of poor heart health in men.

Are lonely people less physically active?

The study was only an observational study and cannot provide a reason for the connection between loneliness and health. However, there are psychological and biological reasons for higher mortality rates. For example, lonely people may be less physically active and ignore health principles. Lonely people feel less motivated to make healthy decisions than when they have a social network around them, according to the research team.

Social networks ensure security and security

From a psychological point of view, a social network conveys a general feeling of security and security. Having people around you helps to intercept potentially harmful, stressful life events. From a biological point of view, people who feel lonely can experience the physical effects of their loneliness, such as a high level of stress and lower immune functions, the researchers explain.

Consider loneliness as a risk factor

Loneliness should take priority in public health initiatives and should be included in the clinical risk assessment of cardiac patients, the researchers conclude. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Anne Vinggaard Christensen, Knud Juel, Ola Ekholm, Lars Thrys√łe, Charlotte Brun Thorup et al .: Significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality among cardiac patients feeling lonely, in Heart (query: 08.11.2019), Heart

Video: Dean Ornish Symington 2017 (September 2022).


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