Background: Social support is a strong and consistent predictor of health outcomes, and social isolation predicts increased morbidity and mortality. The mediating processes are not completely understood.
Purpose: The purpose of the study is to investigate associations between social isolation and cardiovascular and lipid responses to acute stress in the laboratory, and cortisol profiles over the day.
Methods: Cardiovascular and lipid responses to acute stress tasks, and salivary cortisol monitoring, were carried out in 238 healthy middle-aged men and women from the Whitehall II cohort. Social isolation was measured using an adapted version of the Close Persons Questionnaire.
Results: Social isolation was associated with slower post-task recovery of systolic blood pressure in men and women, a higher cholesterol response to stress in men only, and also with larger cortisol awakening responses and greater cortisol output over the day in both men and women.
Conclusions: The impact of social isolation on cardiovascular disease risk may be mediated through stress-related dysregulation of cardiovascular, metabolic, and neuroendocrine processes.