Social Disadvantage and Social Isolation Are Associated With a Higher Resting Heart Rate: Evidence From The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2016 May;71(3):463-73. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbu163. Epub 2014 Dec 6.


Objectives: A high resting heart rate (RHR) represents a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and individuals from poorer backgrounds have a higher RHR compared with their more advantaged peers. This study investigates the pathways through which low socioeconomic status (SES) contributes to a higher RHR.

Method: The sample involved data for 4,888 respondents who were participating in the first wave of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. Respondents completed a detailed interview at home and underwent a 5-min baseline electrocardiograph recording as part of a clinic-based health assessment. SES was indexed using household income.

Results: The mean difference in RHR between those at polarized ends of the income distribution was 2.80 beats per minute (bpm) (95% CI = 1.54, 4.06; p < .001), with the magnitude of the socioeconomic differential being greater for men (4.15 bpm; 95% CI = 2.18, 6.12; p < .001) compared with women (1.57 bpm; 95% CI = 0.04, 3.10; p < .05). Psychosocial factors including social network size and loneliness accounted for a sizeable proportion of the socioeconomic differential in RHR, particularly among men.

Discussion: The finding that poorer people have a higher RHR reinforces the need for additional research exploring the pathways through which social inequalities are translated into biological inequalities.

Keywords: IRISH cohort study; Loneliness; Resting heart rate; Social networks; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arousal*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Life Style
  • Longevity*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychosocial Deprivation*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology*