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Published June 23, 2012, 11:30 PM

Hot Topics: Lonely? Your health may suffer

Loneliness and isolation can affect your quality of life – and maybe your quantity of life, too.

By: Source: Health.com, INFORUM

Loneliness and isolation can affect your quality of life – and maybe your quantity of life, too.

According to a pair of studies published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, living alone – or even just feeling lonely – may increase a person’s risk of premature death.

One study followed nearly 45,000 people ages 45 and up who had heart disease or a high risk of developing the condition. Those who lived alone, the study found, were more likely to die from heart attacks, strokes or other heart complications over a four-year period than people living with family or friends, or in some other communal arrangement.

The risk was highest in middle-aged people, just 14 percent of whom lived alone. Solo living increased the risk of heart problems and early death by 24 percent among people ages 45 to 65, and by only 12 percent among people ages 66 to 80. And there was no association at all in people age 80 and older, a group in which living alone is common.

More research is needed to confirm these findings, but in the meantime it may not be a bad idea for doctors to ask heart patients about their living situation, says senior author Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, M.D., a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.

Living alone “could be a little red flag that [a] patient may be at a higher risk of bad outcomes,” Bhatt says.

Why is living alone potentially harmful? Especially among the middle-aged, a demographic in which living with a spouse or partner is the norm, living alone may be a sign of social or psychological problems, such as relationship trouble, a weak support system, job stress, or depression– all of which have been linked to heart disease.

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