Loneliness, Blood Pressure and the over 50’s

May 3, 2010


If that headline strikes a chord then this could be a timely warning to improve your social life and improve your health. As we age we can lose touch with friends and our social circle may be reduced if we are no longer working. Losing a lifelong partner or the support of close family can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness which can certainly impact your health as is shown by some new research.

Researchers from the University of Chicago have shown that, over time, a sense of loneliness can raise blood pressure, regardless of other risk factors including body mass index (BMI), smoking, alcohol use, race and income level. Of course other factors that can raise blood pressure are depression and stress but they found that neither condition explained the increases seen over the course of four years in people who perceived themselves as lonely.

This research was recently published in Psychology and Aging and was done over five-years as part of a long-term study on participants from 50-75 years of age. The blood pressure increase attributable to loneliness didn’t show up until two years into the study and continued to increase until four years later, the researchers said. They reported that the loneliest people in the study registered blood pressure increases 14.4 millimeters of mercury higher than the blood pressure of the most socially contented participants.

I have discussed before the importance of having strong social networks of support as a sure way of avoiding illness and this reinforces that view. Any social activity that connects you to other people, whether it’s bridge, line dancing, or evening classes, will give your immune system a boost and that’s the first step in staying healthy.


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