THE BROKEN HEART: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness in America by

THE BROKEN HEART: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness in America

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Most people recognize the elements contributing to heart disease as improper diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and destructive living habits; ""the assumption of this book is that, in addition to these risk factors, a person's life may be shortened by the lack of human companionship."" In other words, you can die of a broken heart. That coronary care and shock-trauma patients recover faster when tended by responsive practitioners should come as no surprise, but Lynch, a psychosomatic medicine researcher, goes further, insisting that the happily married have lower percentages of cardiovascular problems and better recovery rates when they are stricken. To support his case, he introduces tables and charts and personal observations, and refers frequently to the Framingham (Mass.) study of heart disease and to comparative figures from other industrialized countries with more stable family life patterns. He also looks over work done with dogs, monkeys, and horses; the married, divorced, single, and widowed; children and the aged; psychotherapists; and neurotics and schizophrenics (without, incidentally, commenting on the ethics of electrically shocking schizophrenics for research purposes). One wonders whether ail these figures from investigations of other questions are reliable as used here and whether statisticians would find his point spreads minimally significant. Is there a cure for loneliness? Distressed by the shallowness of the instant I'm OK panaceas, Lynch emphasizes the importance of ""dialogue"" (Spitz' term in his discussion of Harlow's deprived monkeys) but even that seems inadequate. Interesting, reassuring for hand-holders, but not wholly persuasive.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1977
Publisher: Basic Books