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A lonely life can be bad for the heart
(Filed: 02/05/2005)

Being a party animal could be good for the heart, according to a study linking loneliness with furred-up arteries.

Researchers found that men who were socially isolated had raised levels of a blood chemical linked to heart disease.

The cell signalling protein, interleukin-6 (IL-6), is known to promote the inflammation that helps artery walls to thicken and harden. This in turn can lead to heart attacks and strokes, which together kill 184,000 people each year in Britain.

Scientists in America studied 3,267 men, with an average age of 62, who underwent physical examinations and were asked if they were married, how many friends and relatives they knew who they could confide in, and the extent of their participation in group activities and religious meetings.

Based on the results, the men were assigned a social network score of one to four. Socially isolated men were at the bottom of the scale, and those who were highly connected at the top. The researchers found that the average level of IL-6 in the blood of men with a score of one was 3.85 picograms per millilitre. Men with a social network score of four had a level of 3.52 picograms.

"This was a statistically significant difference," said the research leader Dr Eric Loucks, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

"It seems to be good for health to have close friends and family, to be connected to community groups or religious organisations, and to have a close partner."
 

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