'Loner' Kids May Face Adult Heart Woes

Early social isolation can take long-term toll on health, study finds

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FRIDAY, Aug. 11, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Social isolation in childhood could boost the risk for adult cardiovascular disease, a new study finds.

A team at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, tracked the health of over 1,000 people from birth until age 26.

They found that adults who were socially isolated as children were significantly more likely to be unhealthy, as measured by six cardiovascular risk factors including weight, blood pressure, and levels of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol.

This association remained strong even after the researchers factored in other childhood risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as low IQ, low socioeconomic status, and being overweight. The Wisconsin team added that unhealthy adult behaviors -- smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise -- also could not explain the link between childhood social isolation and increased cardiovascular disease risk in adulthood.

The researchers noted that social isolation tended to persist throughout life and the longer a person was socially isolated, the worse their health.

"A useful concept for understanding how repeated social isolation can lead to poor health is allostatic load, which refers to the cumulative wear and tear caused by repeated adaptations to psychosocial stressors (such as social isolation) in childhood, adolescence and adulthood," the study authors explained.

The findings were published in the August issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart disease risk factors.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Aug. 7, 2006

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