Women with suspected coronary artery disease and smaller social networks die at twice the rate of those who have a larger circle of social contacts, according to a new study.
Thomas Rutledge, Ph.D., of VA San Diego Healthcare System and colleagues found that women who had more social contacts and saw them more often also had lower blood glucose and blood pressure levels, lower rates of smoking and other factors that reduced their risk for coronary disease. Women with larger social networks also showed fewer signs of artery blockage during the four-year study. “The overall magnitude of the social network effect rivaled or exceeded that of more commonly considered biomedical risk factors including smoking, diabetes and hypertension histories,” Rutledge and colleagues say.
However, social isolation’s effect on heart health might have more to do with differences in income than anything else, the researchers concluded. In their study of 503 older women, Rutledge and colleagues found that annual income was statistically more important than social network size for predicting coronary disease death rates. Women with small social networks were also much more likely to make less than $20,000 a year, they discovered.
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