Lonely cardiovascular patients are at increased risk of death within a year of hospital discharge, according to a study. The research stated that lack of social relationships can increase mortality rate in people with chronic diseases.

For the study, researcher Anne Vinggaard Christensen and her colleagues from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark observed a total of 13,443 patients at a specialized heart center.

All the participants were getting treatments for heart valve disease or heart failure, arrhythmia or ischemic heart disease. Of these, 70% were men and their mean age was 64.9. The mean age of women participants were 66.1.

When the cardiac patients were discharged from the center, researchers asked them to fill in a questionnaire. They were quizzed about their physical wellbeing, psychological health, quality of life and their levels of depression and anxiety.

The researchers also asked people about their lifestyle, including their drinking and smoking habits. The researchers then looked into the national data to find out if the participants lived with other people or they lived alone.

After observing the participants for a year, the research team found that lonely cardiac patients had an increased risk of mortality within a year of hospital discharge than those who lived with family members. While women participants were thrice more likely to die of any cause due to loneliness, the men participants were twice likely to die of any cause.

“A strong association between loneliness and poor patient-reported outcomes and 1-year mortality was found in both men and women across cardiac diagnoses,” the researchers noted.

The study team stated that social relationships are very important for the wellbeing of a person. They concluded that “loneliness should be a priority for public health initiatives, and should also be included in clinical risk assessment in cardiac patients”.

However, the researchers noted that “self-reported outcomes are by nature subjective and therefore, sources of bias may exist”. Another limitation of the study was that it did not look into the various risk factors associated with cardiac diseases, like blood pressure, serum cholesterol and cardiac medication. The research was also not designed to look into the participants’ levels of physical activity.

The study, titled "Significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality among cardiac patients feeling lonely", was published in the medical journal Heart earlier this week.

Above, a woman walks on Broad Street past the New York Stock Exchange during the morning commute, April 30, 2014. Reuters/Brendan McDermid