Patients with few family and friends were in poorer health
Young and middle-aged heart attack survivors with a good social network are more likely to be in better health than those with few family and friends, according to a new study.
The study assessed more than 3,400 18- to 55-year-old heart attack patients immediately after their attack, at the one-month mark and one year later and found that survivors with weak social support systems were more likely to live alone, be unemployed, smoke and abuse alcohol. They also had a higher incidence of other heart risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
“Studies like this are opening up a wide list of different types of risk factors than the ones we conventionally think about,” said senior study author Harlan Krumholz, M.D., director of the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. “We shouldn’t just be concerning ourselves with pills and procedures. We have to pay attention to things like love and friendship and the context of people’s lives. It may be that these efforts to help people connect better with others, particularly after an illness, may have very powerful effects on their recovery and the quality of their lives afterwards.”
Though the study found an association between social support and health outcomes after a heart attack, not a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers say it adds to other literature that suggest the importance of identifying patient support networks when they first present with a heart attack.