While social isolation does save us from the risk of COVID-19, it may put our heart at risk. Research found that social isolation makes us forty percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke. Our hearts literally long for social contact!
How did the research start?
The study started with no known case of cardiovascular disease for any of the participants. It went on for an average of 13 years. The researchers examined data from 4,316 individuals with an average age of 59.1 years. They were recruited into a large community-based study between 2000 and 2003.
To analyse the full impact of social isolation on physical health, researchers collected data on different types of social support, with social integration assessed based on marital status and cohabitation, contact with close friends and family, and membership of the political, religious, community, sports or professional organisations.
The impact of social relationships on physical health
A study researcher from the University Hospital in Essen, Dr. Janine Gronewold stated, “What this study tells us is that having strong social relationships is of high importance for your heart health and similar to the role of classical protective factors such as having a healthy blood pressure, acceptable cholesterol levels, and normal weight.”
After 13.4 years of analysis, it was found that among the study participants, 339 cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes and 530 deaths had occurred. Although other factors might have surely contributed to these events, lack of social contact increases the future risk of cardiovascular events by 44% and to increase the risk of death from all causes by 47%. The lack of financial support had increased the risk of cardiovascular events by 30%.
Although fighting the COVID-19 pandemic requires us to avoid social contact, we must still acknowledge the importance of social relationships in our lives.
While we often ignored nurturing our social relationships, this pandemic has given us an opportunity to realize its significance. It doesn’t only help us maintain positive emotional but also physical health. “We need to take this seriously and find effective ways of tackling the problems associated with social isolation to improve our overall health and longevity,” stated study researcher Dirk M Hermann.
During this lockdown, pick up your phone and rekindle old ties with technology!
(with inputs from IANS)