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Loneliness may lead to stroke

28th March 2006

Adults who feel lonely are at increased risk of stroke and heart disease, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Chicago have found that lonely people can have blood pressure ratings 30 points higher than non-lonely people, even when stress and depression are accounted for.

The 30-point difference is the equivalent to one stage of hypertension, significantly increasing the risk of developing heart problems, with the results found to be most striking in patients of retirement age.

Weight, smoking, alcohol consumption, blood pressure medications and demographics were all taken in to account during the studies.

The findings build upon a report by Dr John Cacioppo, which found that loneliness is connected with increased peripheral vascular resistance.

"Lonely people differ from non-lonely individuals in their tendency to perceive stressful circumstances as threatening rather than challenging, and to passively cope with stress by failing to solicit instrumental and emotional support and by withdrawing from stress rather than by actively coping and attempting to problem solve," he said.

Tests as to how loneliness can have a casual impact upon blood pressure are underway.