By Carol Bogart

While it’s long been known that married men live longer than those who live solo, a new study finds that being lonely may literally break your heart.

Researchers at the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago found that lonely people are more at risk for heart attack and stroke, because chronic loneliness could increase their systolic blood pressure number by as much as 30 points. An earlier study concluded that lonely people’s blood vessels constrict more than do those in people who aren’t lonely when the person is under stress.

In the latest study, 229 randomly chosen people of various ethnicities, ages 50 to 68, were studied. Factoring in body mass index and smoking, researchers analyzed the subjects’ answers to a survey, and concluded that the prolonged stress of loneliness may be as likely to increase blood pressure as does acute stress.

Simply being alone, however, is not synonymous with loneliness. Loneliness, the researchers say, is related to an overall feeling of unconnectedness, of being unable to sustain relationships either because the lonely person expects too much – or avoids involvement altogether.

While the study, funded by the National Institute on Aging (http://www.nia.nih.gov/), stops short of saying loneliness causes high blood pressure, researchers say lonely people may benefit from therapy that teaches them positive coping strategies and social skills.

Carol Bogart blogs at http://carolbogart.blogspot.com/. Contact her at 3bogart@sbcglobal.net.  

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