Social Isolation, Loneliness May Harm Cardiovascular, Brain Health

THURSDAY, Aug. 4, 2022 — Social isolation and loneliness seem to be independent risk factors for cardiovascular and brain health, but data on mediating pathways are limited, according to a scientific statement published online Aug. 4 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Crystal W. Cené, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of California San Diego, and colleagues conducted a systematic scoping review of observational and interventional research that examined the impact of social isolation and loneliness on cardiovascular and brain health and addressed mechanisms for the associations that were observed.

The researchers found the evidence most consistent for a direct association between social isolation, loneliness, and coronary heart disease and stroke mortality. Sparse and less robust data were found on the association between social isolation and loneliness with heart failure, dementia, and cognitive impairment. Mediating pathways between social isolation, loneliness, and cardiovascular and brain health outcomes have been tested in few studies using appropriate methods for explanatory analyses. Small effect estimates were seen and unmeasured confounders of the associations may exist. Limited research was seen in groups that may be at higher risk or more vulnerable to the effects of social isolation. No intervention studies were found that aimed to reduce the adverse impact of social isolation or loneliness on cardiovascular or brain health outcomes.

“Understanding the independent effects of social isolation and loneliness on cardiovascular and brain health in vulnerable populations and intervening to reduce social isolation and loneliness could help to advance health equity, an American Heart Association 2024 impact goal,” the authors write.

Abstract/Full Text

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