New study sheds light on the health effects of social isolation on men and women. The latter are particularly exposed to an increased risk of hypertensi


The return to confinement in several European countries unfortunately risks increasing the loneliness and social isolation of many people, especially the elderly. However, social isolation has repercussions both psychically and physically.

In a new study, which appeared recently in the Journal of Hypertension, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC, Canada) investigated the health effects of social isolation by gender.

Using data from a Canadian longitudinal study on aging, researchers analyzed the social connections of some 28,238 adults aged 45 to 85. They found that single women who participated in less than three social activities per month, or had a small social network, with fewer than 85 contacts, were at greater risk for hypertension than others. Mean systolic pressure was highest among widowed, single, and socially inactive women, and the greatest difference in blood pressure was found between married and widowed women. Remember that blood pressure is made up of two elements: systolic pressure, recorded when blood pressure is at its maximum during cardiac contraction, and diastolic pressure, measured when blood pressure is at its minimum, between two heartbeats. In men, on the other hand, researchers found that those who were single, shared a house with others, or had the largest social networks had the highest blood pressure, while those living alone or with little social contact had high blood pressure. lower blood pressure.

“Our research indicates that women, in particular, are more likely to have high blood pressure when isolated in middle or advanced age,” commented Annalijn Conklin, professor at UBC's Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and lead author. of the study. “In women, the increase in blood pressure associated with lack of social connections was similar to that seen with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, increased pollution, high sodium diets or weight gain, ”the researcher said, adding that“ this is a significant risk factor for heart disease or stroke specific to women ”.

“At a time when Covid-19 forces us to limit our social interactions, it is important for those working in the health field to encourage older women, in particular, to find new ways to be socially active. ”, Concluded the researcher.