Loneliness Hurts the Heart

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It’s no secret that loneliness is unhealthy, physically and emotionally. Already linked to a weakened immune system, unwanted isolation also takes a toll on the heart, new research suggests. Studies following 181,000 healthy people for up to 21 years showed that those who lacked strong social ties and had few friends were 29 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 32 percent more likely to suffer a stroke, reports The New York Times. Lonely people are more apt to smoke and less likely to be active, follow a healthy diet, or visit their doctor. The findings don’t prove loneliness causes disease, but lead researcher Nicole Valtorta of the University of York in the U.K. contends it’s as significant a risk factor as anxiety and job strain, and that more efforts should be made to help isolated people make connections. “Our study shows that if this is a risk factor,” Valtorta says, “then we should be trying to prevent the risk factor in the first place.”

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