Monday, July 13, 2020

How Does Social Isolation Affect Physical Health?

Long-term social isolation and loneliness may affect various aspects of human beings. Social isolation and loneliness are associated with a weaker immune system, increased inflammation, poor sleep quality and overactive sympathetic nervous system, all of which can speed up the brain and cardiovascular aging.
Social Isolation
Impact of social isolation and loneliness on physical health

How Does Social Isolation and Loneliness Affect Your Physical Health?

Social Isolation and Loneliness

Social isolation is a lack of social connections or an objective physical separation from other people, while loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact.

People who lack self-confidence often believe that they are not worthy of the attention or respect of other people, which can lead to social isolation and chronic loneliness.
The most common causes of social isolation may include intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities,  mental illness, neurological disorders, advanced age and developmental delays.

Long-term social isolation and loneliness may affect various aspects of human beings. The immune system of a lonely person responds differently to fighting viruses, which makes it more vulnerable to infection.


Feeling lonely and moving away from others can have a major impact on mental health and emotions, according to much psychological research. But new research has asked questions about the impact of social isolation on physical health.


Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to the risk of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and substance abuse, as well as chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. 
People who are more socially connected show less inflammation in the body; on the contrary, those who are more isolated and lonely show increased chronic inflammation.
The effects of social isolation become worse when people are placed in physically isolated environments. 

Loneliness works as a fertilizer for other diseases, it can promote many different types of wear and tear on the body.
The biology of loneliness can accelerate plaque formation in arteries,  promote inflammation in the brain leading to Alzheimer's disease, and help cancer cells to grow and spread.

Social isolation and loneliness were associated with a 29% risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

A socially isolated person may have an increased risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease or an accident or suicide.
Loneliness in heart failure patients was associated with approximately a 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and a 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

Older adults are at increased risk for social isolation and loneliness as they are more likely to face factors such as chronic illness, hearing loss, being alone, losing family or friends.

How Does Social Isolation Affect Physical Health? … A Study Responds

A new study has found that social isolation and loneliness may increase inflammation in the body, paving the way for a number of health problems.
The research led by Dr. Kimberley Smith, a lecturer in health psychology at the University of Surrey in Britain, examined the effect of social isolation on bodies. 

Dr. Kimberley Smith says: "I have always had an interest in the link between mental and physical health, in particular how depression relates to health outcomes and physical infections.  But with the current circumstances, it drew my attention to loneliness and social isolation, and I decided to collaborate with Professor Christina Victor, one of the world's leading experts on loneliness, "according to Psychology Today.

The research examines the signs of long-term inflammation, because it is linked to poor health, and Smith says: "To find all the studies that answered these questions related to our study, we searched five scientific databases, bibliographies of other papers, and summaries were presented at various scientific meetings, from 7400 Preliminary study.
We narrowed the scope of the research to 14 studies to measure the relationship between loneliness and inflammation and 16 studies to measure the relationship of social isolation and inflammation.
This process was not easy, as it took two and a half years from conducting the initial research until the research paper was completed and written."

The study found that the more people become socially isolated, the higher the levels of acute inflammatory markers and this appeared through two signs: 
The first is the presence of a C-reactive protein (CRP) that indicates physical infections. CRP is produced by the liver and is elevated when there is inflammation in the body.
The second is fibrinogen, a blood plasma protein that is made in the liver. Fibrinogen is one of thirteen coagulation factors that is responsible for normal blood clotting.

Smith said: "Although we found that there is a correlation between social isolation and inflammation, we cannot say definitively. Social isolation can lead to physical inflammation, but it is also possible that physical inflammation can also lead to social isolation."

He added: "There is no doubt that loneliness is an unpleasant experience that affects our condition, and that social isolation, especially when imposed on you, can be a source of pressure for people. 
I think the most important thing we can do as a society is to realize that social communication and having meaningful relationships with others is important to all of us. Understanding the importance of social ties can help us understand the importance of communicating with one another. "

One of the exploratory observations as a result of the research and their reviews is that inflammation was seen more in men than in women.

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