The lonely heart: Researchers find higher mortality rates

Lonely cardiology patients are at greater risk of dying within one year of discharge from the hospital. This was the result of a recent study published in the specialist magazine "Heart".

Three times more frequent anxiety and depression, and a lower quality of life

Lonely cardiology patients are at greater risk of dying within one year of discharge from the hospital. This was the result of a recent study published in the specialist magazine "Heart".

The researchers wanted to uncover to what extent factors such as loneliness and living alone affect the health of patients with heart conditions. For this purpose, the research team observed the health of patients over a one-year period. People who were treated by cardiac specialists because of ischaemic heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure or heart valve diseases were taken into account.

Most of the study participants were male (70%) and the average age was 66 years. 13,433 patients, just over half of the study participants (53%), completed questionnaires on their physical health, mental well-being, their general quality of life, anxiety, and depression.

The mortality rate among lonely heart patients tripled; among men, it doubled

Patients who considered themselves lonely reported anxiety and depression three times more often, and a significantly lower quality of life compared to patients who did not consider themselves lonely.

After one year, the scientists checked how the patients were doing and how many of them had died. They found that loneliness was associated with poorer health regardless of the type of heart disease. For lonely patients, the mortality rate was three times higher than for women who did not feel lonely. Men, on the other hand, were twice as likely.

Living alone is not a factor for increased loneliness

According to the research, living alone was not associated with increased loneliness. In such patients, the risk of anxiety and depression was even lower than in patients living with other people. However, men living alone had a 39% higher risk of poor cardiovascular health than women.

The researchers commented: "Our research definitely agrees with previous findings that loneliness is related to changes in cardiovascular and neurological health and the immune system. It favors unhealthy lifestyles that lead to negative health outcomes. There are also clear signs that loneliness and social isolation continue to increase. We believe that urgent action should be taken to counter loneliness."

Vinggaard Christensen A et al., Significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality among cardiac patients feeling lonely. Heart 2019; DOI:10.1136/heartjnl-2019-315460

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