By Dr Jonathan Shurlock
Multiple population level studies have demonstrated the association between objective or perceived social isolation and cardiovascular risk. Golaszewski et al. have added further data to this growing pool through a cohort study of 57,825 women over 65 years old. Notably participant data was collected from the Women’s Health Initiative Extension Study II which included women with no history of myocardial infarction, stroke, or coronary heart disease.
After controlling for health behaviours and health status there was an 8% and 5% increased risk for CVD associated with social isolation and loneliness, respectively. The authors reported risk using hazard ratios (HR) for social isolation HR: 1.08 (95% CI, 1.03-1.12; 8.0% higher risk) and loneliness HR: 1.05 (95% CI, 1.01-1.09; 5.0% higher risk). A combination of high social isolation and loneliness scores was associated with a greater risk of CVD (13-27% increase), when compared with those with low scores for both indices.
Particularly interestingly, the authors found that social support through family and friends was not a significant modifier for the effect size of either association. This finding suggests that better support networks alone are not an adequate solution and that perhaps more robust CVD risk assessment and reduction are required for those at risk of social isolation and loneliness. These considerations are more important than ever in an era personified by increasing digital interactions and enforced reduction in social interactions.
- Golaszewski NM, LaCroix AZ, Godino JG, et al. Evaluation of Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Cardiovascular Disease Among Older Women in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(2):e2146461.