A study from the American Heart Association reveals that patients who are diagnosed with heart failure and often feels lonely have higher risks of deaths and hospitalization than one who rarely feels socially isolated.
Heart failure affects 6 million individuals in the United States. Current figures revealed 960,000 new cases per year, and the number continues to rise up to this day. Experts estimate that 8 million Americans will be diagnosed with heart failure by the year 2020.
Heart failure is a disease where the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to maintain the blood flow within the body that is associated with significant healthcare use, reduced health‐related quality of life, and reduced survival.
Researchers have known that social isolation can impact an individual’s health, further increasing the risk of depression and anxiety. However, the relationship has not been fully examined among patients with heart failure.
The new study is one of first that addressed the relationship between social isolation and heart failure. Barry J. Jacobs, a clinical psychologist, said that the findings represent an important new milestone.
Residents from Southeast Minnesota served as the respondents of the study, diagnosed with heart failure between January 2013 and March 2015. The researchers distributed surveys about the sense of loneliness and isolation among the respondents. The total respondents are 1681, mostly men with an average age of 73.
About 6 percent of the respondents reported a high level of perceived social isolation. When compared, the results received from respondents that indicated a low level of perceived social isolation, high perceived social isolation had 3.5 times increased the risk of death, 68 percent increased the risk of hospitalization, and 57 percent increased the risk of emergency department visits.
Study senior author, Lila Rutten, Ph.D., professor of health services research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said that their study discovered that, “a patient’s sense of feelings of loneliness or isolation, may contribute to poor prognosis in heart failure.”
She suggested that health care providers can prevent the increased risks of deaths and health care use of their patients by implementing a valid, reliable and brief screening tool to help identify those who are experiencing social isolation.