Isolation raises the risk of stroke and heart disease

Experts writing in the medical journal Heart suggest loneliness and social isolation may increase the risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease by around 30 percent. This puts loneliness on a par with other recognised risk factors such as anxiety and having a stressful job, the researchers claim.

By analysing a number of published studies involving more than 181,000 people over periods ranging between three and 21 years, the experts discovered that loneliness and social isolation are linked to a 29 percent increased risk of a heart or angina attack, and a 32 percent increased risk of having a stroke.

Because their study is observational, the researchers couldn’t draw any conclusions about why or how loneliness and isolation affects stroke and heart disease risk. But they do suggest addressing loneliness and social isolation could have an important role in the prevention of stroke and heart disease, especially in high-income countries where these conditions are among the leading causes of illness and death.

Go purple for stroke awareness

Meanwhile, every year in May the Stroke Association organises its Make May Purple event to raise awareness of stroke. Every three and a half minutes, someone in the UK has a stroke, the charity claims. It’s the second biggest killer in the world, and can rob you of your speech, your ability to walk and your independence.
“This incredibly cruel condition strikes in an instant, and its effects can last a lifetime,” says Jon Barrick, the Stroke Association’s chief executive.
“Make May Purple is a fantastic opportunity for people throughout the UK to come together and show their support for everyone who has been affected by stroke. Whether people choose to bake it, wear it or plant it purple, the vital funds we raise will help us conquer stroke.”
In the light of the findings of the latest research into stroke and social isolation, it may also be a good time to start visiting someone you think may be feeling lonely or isolated. You could, for instance, volunteer for one of many charities that run befriending schemes, such as Friends of the Elderly, Age UK or the Royal Voluntary Service.
If, however, you are affected by loneliness or social isolation, you can find your nearest befriending service via the UK Befriending Directory, which offers a comprehensive list of relevant organisations around the country.

Find out more about stroke by visiting the Stroke Association’s website.