Loneliness is bad for your health. Now we are closer to knowing why

Harvard researchers have discovered a new link between loneliness and poor health.

They found that people with fewer social connections had higher levels of fibrinogen — a protein that helps blood clots to form. Larger amounts raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Loneliness is known to activate stress hormones, producing fibrinogen in anticipation of injury. The clotting protein is necessary in order for the body to stop bleeding. However, too much fibrinogen can cause a build-up in the arteries and increase blood pressure.

The researchers found that people with just five social connections had fibrinogen levels 20 per cent higher than people with 25 connections. They also suggested that having 12 fewer friends had the same effect on fibrinogen levels as taking up smoking.

The study’s lead author, Dr David Kim, told the Telegraph: ‘Measurement of the whole social network can provide information about an individual’s cardiac risk that is not necessarily apparent to the individual herself.

‘Social connectedness displays a significant association with fibrinogen. If there is indeed an independent causal relationship between social isolation and fibrinogen and, subsequently, heart disease and stroke, then policies and interventions that improve social connectedness may have health effects even beyond the well-known benefits of improved economic conditions.’

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences.

Instant analysis
It has been known for many years that social isolation can have a significant negative impact on health and longevity, but the exact mechanism underlying this has always been unclear. This Harvard-based study takes us a step closer to now understanding why.

Social isolation and loneliness now appears to be associated with a rise in the level of the body protein fibrinogen, which can raise blood pressure and increase the build-up of fatty deposits in our arteries, so increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

It is too early to be able to say that social isolation directly causes heart problems, but one thing does appear to be the case: being lonely is bad for your health.
Research score: 4/5

  • Jeff

    Gated Communities

    Gated communities are taking on an important role in modern politics. Donald Trump grew up in a gated community, and made his fortune building gated communities that illegally exclude African-Americans. Trump’s approach is not based on ideology, but on consumer demand, and in particular, the demand of the working class to live in a place where there are no minority groups, criminals, wierdos or politically correct (Catholic educated) people.

    A gated community has a number of characteristics. There is ideally a six metre high concrete wall to keep out intruders. When the wall surrounds a very large number of houses, the average cost of the wall becomes insignificant. Getting past the security guards is like going through customs. Hence there is no crime in a gated community, and children can roam unsupervised in complete safety. Parents can be sure their daughters will not encounter males that would be unsuitable sons-in-law.

    Allotments are typically quarter-acre or five acres (one-tenth or two hectares). Houses are fireproof and of a similar appearance. Services are provided by underground ducts, including pneumatic mail delivery. Television and internet are unobtrusively censored.

    There is a shopping centre with a supermarket and other key shops. Prices are controlled to prevent gouging. There is a club for men and older boys from which women are excluded. On the top of the shopping centre is a hospital and old people’s home overlooking a race track and playing fields.

    There is a non-denomination church, which has leather sofas instead of pews, and wallpaper with pictures of saints like in an eastern orthodox church. The priest is a family man employed by the management committee. There is a co-educational school, so that if children conceive a passionate desire for a classmate, it will be someone of the opposite gender. The school has international baccalaureate and no homework.

    Once people move into a gated community, it occurs to them that, instead of their having to move into a gated community, it would be better if the “undesirables” were forced to live in ghettos, or were kicked out of the country altogether. No doubt this is what Donald Trump has in mind. The Conservative Party should take on board this trend in modern living and become the party for people who live or would like to live in gated communities. eh