'Loneliness increases high BP risk'
A new study has found that loneliness among elderly people is a major risk factor in increasing blood pressure, and could increase the risk of death from stroke and heart disease.
The study of 229 people aged 50 to 68, by a team of researchers led by Louise Hawkley, Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, and John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology, found that lonely people have blood pressure readings that are as much as 30 points higher than in non-lonely people, even when other factors such as depressive symptoms or perceived stress are taken into account.
The researchers, on examining data on weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, blood pressure medications, and demographic characteristics, also found that people who rated high on being lonely had a significantly higher blood pressure than non-lonely people with similar profiles on the other measures.
John Cacioppo said that lonely people often tended to perceive stressful circumstances as threatening, thus becoming unable to cope with stress passively.
“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.
The study is published in the journal Psychology and Aging.