, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 290-298

Loneliness, lack of emotional support, lack of companionship, and the likelihood of having a heart condition in an elderly sample

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Abstract

Social isolation has been linked to a variety of adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease. Researchers have attributed this association to the feelings of loneliness that accompany social isolation, but they have rarely assessed loneliness directly. In a sample of 180 older adults, feelings of loneliness and two kinds of social deficits that underlie loneliness& limited emotional support and limited companionship&were examined in relation to the likelihood of having a coronary condition. Potential physiological, behavioral, and affective mediators were examined as well. Greater loneliness was found to be associated with an increased probability of having a coronary condition, as were low levels of both emotional support and companionship. Mediators of these links were not identified, however, in this sample. These results underscore the value of examining the specific social deficits that underlie loneliness in investigations of the relation between loneliness and cardiovascular health in later life.

This research was supported by Grant AG03975 from the National Institute on Aging.
We thank Martha Ryan Pedersen and Paul Thuras for their invaluable help in overseeing the data collection and data management, and we thank a large group of undergraduate students who provided assistance with data collection and data coding.