People with heart disease who live alone tend to die sooner than those sharing their home with others, according to an international study that looked at more than 44,000 people.
Previous studies have linked social isolation to everything from heart attacks to weakened immune systems, but the current study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, focused specifically on people with known heart disease or at very high risk for it.
Reasons for the difference remain unclear, but lead researcher Deepak Bhatt said access to regular medical care might be involved.
"Patients living alone may have more difficulty getting their medications refilled and taking them regularly," Bhatt, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health.
"They also don't have anyone at home to call the doctor's office or emergency room if they are not looking well."
The study included more than 44,000 people, all aged 45 or older, from multiple countries across the globe.
Over the four years the study lasted, 7.7 percent of participants younger than 65 who lived on their own died, compared to just 5.7 percent of those who didn't live alone.
The gap was smaller for people aged 66 to 80, but it remained statistically reliable even after accounting for age, sex, employment, ethnicity and country. The living situation of those over 80, however, wasn't tied to death rates.
Bhatt and his team speculated that in people under 80, living alone could signal psychological and social problems like job strain or loneliness. In contrast, very old people who live on their own may be healthier and more independent than those who don't.
Whatever the explanation, Bhatt said cardiologists should routinely ask their patients if they live alone.
"If the answer is yes, that might be a red flag and they should make sure the patients have a way to get their medicine regularly," he said.
Meanwhile, patients who live alone should think twice before ignoring changes that might be a sign of health problems.
"May times people just adapt to their circumstances. Perhaps just lower your threshold a little bit and realize it's better to call (the doctor) than not to call."
But that might not be the whole story, he acknowledged.
"Other mechanisms by which living alone could increase cardiac risk have to do with possible social isolation and loneliness, and these are more challenging to fix," he said.
Indeed, another report published along with Bhatt's shows that older people who felt lonely had more difficulty performing basic tasks of daily living and died younger than those who didn't feel alone. SOURCE: http://bit.ly/KgcRnj
Government study provides strongest evidence of cell phone health effects
The reason for the high-level threat in the area is the presence there of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus that health authorities say causes birth defects in newborns
Three-day African Utility Week conference begins in South African city of Cape Town
More than two thousand activists came together to close an opencast coal mine in Germany.
New federal rules unveiled on Thursday will tackle the release of the greenhouse gas methane from oil wells and equipment as part of an effort to fight climate change.
At least five reef islands in the remote Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea level rise and coastal erosion
Heads of UN, Work Bank lay out vision to deal with climate change
Turkish environment minister signs historic agreement in New York against taking action against climate change
Human defense mechanisms could be disrupted by the presence of a class of organic pollutants in fish and other food, according to new research.
'The time has come to treat childhood stunting as a development and an economic emergency,' World Bank Group head says
Obese population hits all-time high with a new studying finding that obesity can be predicted in babies
New research factors in collapsing Antarctic ice sheet that could double the sea-level rise to two metres by 2100 if emissions are not cut
Temperatures in the first two months of 2016 followed a year that broke 'all previous records by a wide margin'
Researchers at MIT may have made an important breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.
Human immune system could be steered towards fighting cancerous tumors, researchers find
Data released on UN world wildlife day shows overall population is still falling despite a recent reduction in levels of poaching for ivory