Here’s a surprising new fact for people with diabetes: feeling lonely could hurt your heart more than bad food, not exercising, smoking, or feeling down.
Professor Lu Qi from Tulane University led a research team on this topic. They found out that having good-quality social interactions is crucial for the heart health of people with diabetes.
It’s not just about the number of times they meet others, it’s about how they feel during these interactions.
Professor Qi emphasizes that we shouldn’t underestimate how much loneliness can affect our physical and mental health.
If you’re someone with diabetes and you’re feeling lonely, he suggests joining a group or class. Try making friends with people who like the same things as you do.
What the Study Involved
People with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease. They also tend to feel more lonely compared to people without diabetes.
Past studies have shown that feeling lonely or socially isolated increases the risk of heart disease in everyone, not just people with diabetes.
In the new study, the researchers wanted to see if feeling lonely or socially isolated was particularly bad for people with diabetes.
They collected data from 18,509 adults in the UK who had diabetes but not heart disease. These people were between 37 and 73 years old.
The study used questionnaires to figure out if these people were feeling lonely or isolated. Signs of severe loneliness included feeling alone a lot of the time and not having someone to talk to about personal matters.
Signs of extreme social isolation included living alone, not getting visitors often, and not going to social events at least once a week.
The researchers followed the study participants for ten years. During this time, 3,247 of them developed heart disease.
Of these, 2,771 developed a disease that affects the heart’s blood supply, and 701 had strokes. Some people had both of these conditions.
When the researchers compared the results of the loneliness questionnaire with who got heart disease, they found a pattern.
People who scored high for loneliness had an 11 to 26% higher risk of developing heart disease compared to those who scored low.
The results were similar for the specific type of heart disease, but not for strokes. The scores for social isolation didn’t show any significant links to heart disease.
The Impact of Loneliness
The researchers also wanted to see how much impact loneliness had compared to other things that can cause heart disease.
They found that loneliness was less of a risk factor than kidney problems, cholesterol levels, and body mass index. But it was a bigger risk factor than feeling down, smoking, lack of exercise, and diet.
Loneliness seems to increase the impact of physical risk factors like uncontrolled blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and poor kidney function in people with diabetes.
Professor Qi suggests that doctors should ask their patients with diabetes if they’re feeling lonely. If the patients say they are, the doctors should get them help from mental health services.
It’s clear from this research that taking care of our hearts involves looking after our social and emotional health too.
If you care about health, please read studies that scientists find a core feature of depression and this metal in the brain is strongly linked to depression.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about drugs for mental health that may harm the brain, and results showing this therapy is more effective than ketamine in treating severe depression.
The study was published in European Heart Journal.
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