Study Links Social Isolation to Heart Risks

Loneliness is known to cause depression in people, however, social isolation can also have physiological effects, namely, cardiovascular disease. A new study offers further proof to show how heavy isolation can weigh on the heart.

Loneliness is known to cause depression in people, however, social isolation can also have physiological effects, namely, cardiovascular disease. Julie Beck from The Atlantic reports on a new study, published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, that offers further proof to how heavily isolation can weigh on the heart.


Researchers led by Jean-Philippe Gouin, a Psychology Professor at Concordia, recruited 60 students that had just moved to Montreal, Canada to attend school. They made sure the students had no connections prior to the study—no family, friends, or relationships. The participants had their heart-rates measured during their first visit, and again at two and five months after. Researchers also inquired about their social habits: how many people they spoke to during the week and how lonely they felt.

Over time researchers noted that the participants' heart-rate variability (the time between heart-beats) decreased. This piece of information is of particular interest to researchers, because it could be the connection between poor heart health and social isolation. Gouin explained in a press release:

"Other research has shown that individuals with a lower heart rate variability are at increased risk for the development of poor health, including greater risk for cardiac diseases. Therefore, decreases in heart rate variability are bad for you."

Indeed, the researchers found that those students who were able to form social connections found their heart-rate variability increase. Whereas those who remained in social isolation had a lower heart-rate variability. However, being that these students moved there's the possibility that a contributing factor of this experiment is stress, which has also been linked to heart disease. But social interaction would have certainly helped to mitigate that stress.

"The message is clear: Reach out to other people. The more quickly you manage to integrate socially in your new home, the healthier you'll be. It's easier said than done, but it's worth it."

Read more at The Atlantic

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less