Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Social connections: Could heartwarming be heart-saving?


Being social has its rewards.

Men who are socially isolated have elevated levels of a blood marker for inflammation that’s linked to cardiovascular disease, according to data from the Framingham Heart Study presented today at the American Heart Association’s 45th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

"Our analyses suggest that it may be good for the heart to be connected," said Eric B. Loucks, Ph.D., an instructor in the department of society, human development and health at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "In general, it seems to be good for health to have close friends and family, to be connected to community groups or religious organizations, and to have a close partner."

Loucks’ team studied 3,267 Framingham Heart Study participants, with an average age of 62 years, who underwent physical exams between 1998 and 2001. The researchers measured blood concentrations of four inflammatory markers including interleukin-6 (IL-6).

The researchers asked the participants five questions about their social network:

  • marital status;
  • number of relatives in whom they can confide private matters;
  • number of close friends in whom they can confide private matters;
    involvement in religious meetings or services; and
  • participation in groups such as senior centers.

They then assigned a social network index of 1 to 4, based on participants’ response, with the lowest number corresponding to social isolation and the highest to high social connection.

After considering major known risk factors for heart disease, men with the lowest level of social involvement had the highest levels of IL-6, the study showed. Specifically, the average concentration of IL-6 in the blood of men with a social network index of 1 was 3.85 picograms per milliliter, compared with 3.52 picograms per milliliter in men with a social network index of 4. "This was a statistically significant difference," Loucks said.

No such link was found in women, however. Researchers noted that the study counted the number of relationships, but did not assess the quality of relationships. For example, were these relationships supportive for the study participants, or did they often cause stress and conflict? Future studies on the quality of relationships will provide knowledge on the effect of social relationships on inflammatory markers in women.

Also, researchers found no association between social involvement and three other markers of inflammation in the blood: C-reactive protein, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1. "These observations need further study," Loucks said.

Studies indicate that inflammation plays a role in causing atherosclerosis. "It seems to allow white blood cells to tether to and become engulfed in the side of the blood vessel wall," Loucks said. "This allows lipids to be deposited in the blood vessel wall more easily, causing atherosclerosis."

Researchers say IL-6 -- and by extension, inflammation -- may be elevated for two reasons in men who are socially isolated. First, social isolation may influence health behaviors such as smoking and physical activity, which in turn affect IL-6 levels. Second, socially isolated people are often depressed and under more stress than their more outgoing counterparts (studies show that even acute stress can increase levels of IL-6).

Carole Bullock | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>