The findings showed that loneliness and social isolation was associated with a 29 percent increased risk of a heart or angina attack and a 32 percent heightened risk of having a stroke.

"It suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high-income countries," said researchers from York, Liverpool and Newcastle universities.

The study, involving more than 1,81,000 adults, included 4,628 coronary heart disease "events" –  heart attacks, angina and death -- and 3,002 strokes recorded during monitoring periods ranging from three to 21 years.

The results back public health concerns about the importance of social contacts for health and well-being.

"But one of the greatest challenges will be how to design effective interventions to boost social connections, taking account of technology," the authors pointed out in a paper published online in the journal Heart."

''Further attention to social connections is needed in research and public health surveillance, prevention and intervention efforts," they noted.

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