Chronic feelings of loneliness take a toll on blood pressure over time, causing a marked increase after four years, according to a new study at the University of Chicago.
A new study shows, for the first time, a direct relation between loneliness and larger increases in blood pressure four years latera link that is independent of age and other factors that could cause blood pressure to rise, including body-mass index, smoking, alcohol use and demographic differences such as race and income.
The researchers also looked at the possibility that depression and stress might account for the increase but found that those factors did not fully explain the increase in blood pressure among lonely people 50 years and older.
"Loneliness behaved as though it is a unique health-risk factor in its own right," wrote researcher Louise Hawkley in an article, "Loneliness Predicts Increased Blood Pressure," published in the current issue of the journal Psychology and Aging.
Hawkley, Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, is part of a UChicago research team that has been doing pioneering work on the impact of loneliness on health and quality of life issues. It includes Ronald Thisted, Chairman of Health Studies; Christopher Masi, Assistant Professor in Medicine; and John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology.
High blood pressure, often called a silent threat as it has few symptoms, undermines health in many ways. It increases the risk for heart attack and stroke and impairs kidney function. A systolic blood pressure measurement greater than 140 mm, also called hypertension, is the most common primary diagnosis in the United States and is the primary or contributing cause of about 18 percent of deaths in this country. It is estimated to cost $73.4 billion per year. However, any measurement greater than 115 mm increases risk for cardiovascula
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University of Chicago