A recent study published in the European Heart Journal reveals that loneliness is a larger risk factor for heart disease in diabetic patients than diet, exercise, smoking, or depression.
Quality social contact rather than the number of social engagements appeared to be more crucial for heart health in individuals with diabetes, the researchers found.
Professor Lu Qi, the study author from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, emphasized that loneliness has a significant impact on physical and emotional health.
He suggested that lonely diabetic patients should consider joining groups or classes to make friends with those having similar interests.
The study included 18,509 adults aged between 37 to 73 years from the UK Biobank, who had diabetes but no cardiovascular disease at the onset.
Loneliness and isolation were assessed through questionnaires and were assigned high-risk scores.
Over an average follow-up of 10.7 years, 3,247 participants developed cardiovascular disease.
Compared to participants with the lowest loneliness score, the risk of cardiovascular disease was 11% and 26% higher in those with scores of 1 or 2, respectively.
The study found no significant correlation between social isolation scores and cardiovascular outcomes.
Interestingly, loneliness had a stronger influence on the incidence of cardiovascular disease than factors like depression, smoking, physical activity, and diet, but weaker than kidney function, cholesterol, and BMI.
Moreover, for diabetic patients, the effect of physical risk factors was amplified in those who were lonely compared to those who were not.
Professor Qi concluded that the results suggest that assessing loneliness should become a standard part of evaluations for patients with diabetes, with appropriate referrals to mental health services for those affected.
If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.
The study was published in European Heart Journal.
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