Loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke by 30%

Social isolation and loneliness throughout life can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke — and with more people in America feeling lonely than ever, experts fear an increase in these cases could occur in the future.

A scientific statement published Thursday in the Journal of the American Heart Association states that social isolation and loneliness are linked to a 30 percent increase in the risk of heart disease and stroke.

While a lack of social interactions is linked to all sorts of health problems, the strongest link may be with cardiovascular problems. The extra stress that often comes with isolation can add an unnecessary burden to the body and cause damage.

Experts warn that two groups in particular are at risk. Older Americans — often left alone through retirement and widowhood — and Generation Z, a group described as the loneliest generation ever. In particular, the prolonged loneliness of Gen Z poses a major problem for future health.

Experts warn that social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke by about 30% later in life. Surveys Show Gen Z – Youngest American Adults – Are Most Lonely (file photo)

“More than four decades of research has clearly shown that social isolation and loneliness are both associated with adverse health outcomes,” Dr. Crystal Wiley Cené, who chaired the writing of the statement and works at the University of California, San Diego.

Experts write that social isolation is linked to an increase in all causes of death, with men at particularly high risk.

dr.  Crystal Wiley Cené (pictured) of the University of California, San Diego, said the findings are

dr. Crystal Wiley Cené (pictured) of the University of California, San Diego, said the findings are “pretty important” based on the number of Americans who suffer from loneliness.

People who are lonely are more likely to experience chronic stress, one of the main factors that can affect heart health.

They explain that social isolation is also linked to increased levels of inflammation throughout the body, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke, among other health problems.

‘There is strong evidence that social isolation and loneliness are associated with an increased risk of poorer heart and brain health in general; however, the data on the association with certain outcomes, such as heart failure, dementia and cognitive impairment, are scarce’, explains Cené.

These data put two specific groups at high risk overall, both the adults and the youngest portions of the U.S. adult population.

Loneliness among the elderly is a well-documented phenomenon. Elderly people often do not have the ability or energy to participate in social events as they could in their youth.

How Gen Z Became America’s Loneliest Generation

Americans are lonelier than ever, and experts warn it’s actually the youngest generations who feel it the most

A UCLA study published in 2019 found that 43% of Americans feel lonely, and 27% feel there are rarely, if ever, people they connect with

Each generation’s loneliness was scored by UCLA researchers, and they amazingly found that Gen Z was the most socially isolated

Older generations even reported being less lonely than their younger peers, a break from standard thinking

People who are lonely suffer from poorer overall health – both physically and mentally

One of the most common causes of problems such as depression and anxiety is loneliness

Experts also warn that loneliness can put a person at increased risk for cardiovascular or neurological problems

Source: UCLA Loneliness Scale

Many close friends and relatives will also have passed away over the years, leaving them disconnected. Younger family members generally grow up and go about their own lives without their older ones

However, insulation under Generation Z is a relatively new concept. Generally accepted as people born between 1997 and 2012 – it includes Americans who are currently nine to 25 years old.

People in these age groups would be expected to have vibrant, busy, social lives, but that has not been the case.

The statement cites a Harvard report finding that Generation Z adults are currently the “loneliest generation” in America.

They point to increased use of social media and less personal engagement with their peers as reasons for the bizarre distinction.

“Given the prevalence of social connectedness in the US, the impact on public health is quite significant,” Cené said.

The COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role as well. School closures and many recreational activities have caused an increase in mental health problems among the youngest Americans in recent years.

Loneliness and social isolation are two of the leading causes of depression in particular, the statement reads.

Now that the issue has been raised by experts, Cené says it’s time to respond with solutions:

‘There is an urgent need to develop, implement and evaluate programs and strategies to reduce the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness on cardiovascular and brain health, especially for at-risk groups.

Clinicians should ask patients about the frequency of their social activity and whether they are satisfied with their level of interaction with friends and family.

“They should then be willing to refer people who are socially isolated or lonely — especially those with a history of heart disease or stroke — to community resources to help them connect with others.”

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