Posted on Apr 01, 2010, 6 a.m.
Chronic feelings of loneliness can cause a marked increase in blood pressure among men and women ages 50 and up.
University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) researchers have shown for the first time, a direct relation between loneliness and increases in blood pressure four years later, with the link being independent of age and other factors that could cause blood pressure to rise, including body-mass index, smoking, alcohol use and demographic differences such as race and income. Studying a group of 229 Chicago-area men and women, ages 50 to 68 years, Louise C. Hawkley and colleagues examined how loneliness and co-occurring psychosocial factors (depressive symptoms, perceived stress, social support, and hostility) were related to indices of cardiovascular and endocrine functioning. During the five-year study, the team found a clear connection between feelings of loneliness reported at the beginning of the study and rising blood pressure over that period. Even people with modest levels of loneliness were impacted. Among all the people in the sample, the loneliest people saw their blood pressure go up by 14.4 mm more than the blood pressure of their most socially contented counterparts over the four-year study period. Finding that: “loneliness was associated with elevated systolic blood pressure (SBP) and age-related increases in SBP, net of demographic variables, health behavior variables, and the remaining psychosocial factors,” the researchers conclude that: “the results… are consistent with the hypothesis that cardiovascular disease contributes to increased morbidity and mortality among lonely individuals.”
Louise C. Hawkley, Christopher M. Masi, Jarett D. Berry, John T. Cacioppo. “Loneliness Is a Unique Predictor of Age-Related Differences in Systolic Blood Pressure.” Psychology and Aging, Volume 21, Issue 1, April 2006, Pages 152-164.