Long-term loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, even in the absence of depressive symptoms or social isolation. Stroke prevention may benefit greatly from addressing loneliness, and identifying those who are especially vulnerable to it may be made easier with repeated assessments of loneliness over time.

Here is some of what Robby Berman reported for Medical News Today:

A new study finds an increased risk of stroke among people who report themselves as being lonely over the long term.

Participants in the study who reported feeling lonely at two interviews four years apart were found to be at a 56% higher risk of stroke.

The study offers a unique perspective derived from interviewing participants twice to gauge the effect of chronic loneliness. Previous research has questioned individuals only at a single time, and thus did not track loneliness’ long-term effects.

The researchers analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study conducted from 2006 to 2018. Only participants with two recorded measurements of loneliness were included in the new study.

The study’s 8,936 participants were aged 50 and older and had never had a stroke. Their loneliness was measured according to their responses to questions in the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale.

Participants were categorized as:

  • Consistently high — people who score high during both assessments
  • Consistently low — people with low levels of loneliness in both assessments
  • Remitting — people with a high loneliness score at the first measurement, but not at the second
  • Recent onset — people with a low loneliness score at the first measurement but who had a high loneliness score at the second.

The new study found that remitting and recent participants were 25% more likely to have a stroke. People with low loneliness scores were found to be at no increased risk.