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Socially isolated children may become unhealthy adults

Social isolation in childhood may be associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood, according to a report in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Social isolation and loneliness can affect both psychological and physical health, according to background information in the article. Adults who lack social support have been shown to be at higher risk for coronary artery disease and have a poorer prognosis once they develop the condition. In addition, evidence from an emerging field known as life-course epidemiology is beginning to suggest that early life experiences are also important in determining risk factors for disease in adulthood.

Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, and King's College, London, England, and colleagues studied 1,037 children from birth through age 26 years. Participants underwent follow-up assessments at ages 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18 and 21 years, during which the individuals or their parents provided information about social factors, body mass index was calculated and intelligence was evaluated. A final physical examination and evaluation was conducted at age 26 years. At that time, those who did not have a partner or had not dated in the past year and those who said they had no one to provide emotional support were considered socially isolated adults.

Twenty-six-year-olds who were socially isolated as children were significantly more likely to be unhealthy as adults, as measured by six cardiovascular risk factors, including weight, blood pressure and HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This association remained significant even when the researchers considered established childhood risk factors for poor cardiovascular health, such as low socioeconomic status, low IQ and being overweight. Unhealthy adult behaviors, including smoking, drinking and lack of exercise, also could not explain th
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Contact: Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D.
a.caspi@iop.kcl.ac.uk
JAMA and Archives Journals
7-Aug-2006


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