Loneliness has been shown to be a strong predictor of premature death due to cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke. Loneliness and social isolation have been labeled as the new public health risks.
A meta-analytic review of social relationships and mortality risk published in PLoS Medicine in 2010 established that social relationships influences mortality risk. Data across 308,849 individuals, followed for an average of 7.5 years, indicate that participants with stronger social relationships had 50% increased chances of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient social relationships, which increased the risk of death by 50%. The study also suggested that the influence of social relationships on the risk of death is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.
In a more recent study published in July 2016 in Heart, poor social relationships or social isolation or loneliness was associated with a 29% increase in risk of incident CHD and a 32% increase in risk of stroke when compared with their peers who were either well connected or at least felt like they were well-connected.
Human behavior is governed by the needs of the individual. Every behavior is justified medically as every action is performed according to one’s own psyche, which in turn depends upon the needs. As per Vedic knowledge, human body is made up of physical body, mind, intellect, ego and the soul. The needs were classified as physical needs, emotional and social needs, intellectual needs, egoistic needs and the spiritual needs.
Inner happiness is attained when all these needs are met. This means that the person is in a parasympathetic state of mind, in which the mind is quiet and composed enabling rational and right conscious–based decisions and just the right frame of mind to tackle complications. It is characterized by reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
A sympathetic state of mind, on the other hand, releases stress hormones and may trigger panic or nervousness. The sympathetic system is predominant during acute stress evident by increase in heart rate and blood pressure. A person cannot take correct and decisive decision in a sympathetic state of mind. He or she is likely to make mistakes which can often be detrimental to one’s living. Negativity of the mind also indicates a sympathetic state of mind.
A person who is lonely or socially isolated has unfulfilled needs. There is nobody to share emotions, intellectual conversations, give comfort or to lend a shoulder to cry on. A lonely person has to live alone with all his guilt and negative thoughts that stay within the subconscious mind. These individuals are also more likely to have anxiety and depression.
All these precipitate a sympathetic state, which may trigger an acute cardiovascular event such as high BP, heart attack, stroke and arrhythmias, which increase risk of death.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
Vice President CMAAO
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Immediate Past National President IMA