November 2, 2016
The researchers from the University of York, the University of Liverpool and Newcastle University reviewed evidence on the impact loneliness has on heart disease and stroke risk, the notion that being lonely may cause stroke has caught fire. Earlier research with reference to social isolation and early death have also highlighted similar concerns.
But how does social isolation or loneliness lead to such phenomenon. We have reiterated the WHO definition of health being a balance of physical, mental and social wellbeing without really understanding the spirit of the message. While we as a civilization are reaching higher technological goals, the focus on self is narrowed down to the individual self and not the social self.
Stress and its effect on our Body:
Stress has significant effect on physical health especially our heart. Studies have proven time and again that the chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system which happens in ‘flight or fight response’ has far reaching consequence on the neuro endocrine system. The stress hormone alter the way blood clots, increasing rates of atherosclerosis which block arteries. The rise in blood pressure as a response to stress is the reason why people in our culture often call tense people as “people with BP”. Lifestyle malfunction like lack of exercise, over eating and smoking are direct effects of mishandling of stress which are known risk factors for coronary artery diseases.
Thus the link between coronary artery diseases and stroke to inadequate stress management is quite evident. Loneliness thus is not the single factor for development of stroke, instead it is how loneliness is perceived and how much stress it cause that finally affects the health of an individual.
Loneliness is a battle of the Brain:
Loneliness is not a social state, but a mental state. How one perceives ones social relationships, how much trust one has in others and the important psychological sense of belongingness. Individuals who lack faith in others and are constantly on guard invariably end up being negative and hostile. They often isolate themselves socially. Others who are unable to formulate positive social relationships due to transmigration, death of spouse, moving away of children(empty nest syndrome) perceive themselves as in a negative/threatening environment and accept it as the natural outcome of their situation. Such individuals experience chronic stress and if they do not try to change their perspective and find emotional support and solace in available scenario, the physical consequences of stress hormones build and eventually may lead to heart attack or stroke.
What to do to deal with Loneliness?
The emphasis therefore should be on improving one’s social wellbeing by nurturing meaningful social relationships like friendship and available family members. If one finds a friend or colleague dissatisfied his/her space, one may need to explore and encourage the perception one holds regarding his interactions with people around him/her. From a larger perspective, community activities and celebrations also provide for the opportunity to bond and find one connected in a psycho-social space should also be encouraged.