ISLAMABAD: Loneliness raises the risk of stroke significantly and should be treated as a public health problem like smoking or overeating, researchers have said.
In the biggest review into the subject ever carried out the University of York looked at 23 studies involving 181,000 people for up to 21 years, The Telegraph reported.
They found that lonely people are around 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke or heart disease, two of the leading causes of death in Britain.
Loneliness has already been linked to a compromised immune system, high blood pressure and ultimately premature death.
“The main finding of our review that isolated individuals are at increased risk of developing CHD and stroke supports public health concerns over the implications of social relationships for health and well being,” said Dr Nicole Valtorta Department of Health Sciences of the University of York.
“Our work suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high income countries.
Tackling loneliness and isolation may be a valuable addition to coronary heart disease and stroke prevention strategies.”
Health practitioners have an important role to play in acknowledging the importance of social relations to their patients.
Last year scientists at the University of Chicago discovered that loneliness actually triggers physical responses in the body which make people sick.
Feeling lonely activates the fight or flight stress signal which affects the production of white blood cells.
It also increases activity in genes which produce inflammation in the body while lowering activity in genes which fight off illness promoting high levels of inflammation in the body.
Essentially lonely people had a less effective immune response and more inflammation than non lonely people.
They feel socially threatened which has an enormous impact on health.
Although this observational study suggests a physiological link between loneliness and heart health problems this is not a clear link and much more research is needed to understand if there truly is a relationship between the two.