Older heart failure patients who feel that they have lost their social role among friends and family are more likely to experience poor clinical outcomes, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine.
This research, conducted at Sapporo Medical University Hospital in Japan, is the first to demonstrate a close association between the loss of perceived social role and long-term poor clinical outcomes in older heart failure patients. The findings highlight the importance of developing a management program that includes a social approach to the care of these patients.
Social frailty, which includes the loss of social roles, social networks, and social activities, has been identified as a risk factor for healthy aging. Previous research has shown that social frailty is present in two thirds of older people with heart failure and is linked to worse outcomes for these patients. However, the specific aspects of social frailty that contribute to poor outcomes have not been clear.
To examine these aspects, the researchers used the Makizako questionnaire to assess social frailty in more than 300 heart failure patients over the age of 65 who were admitted to the hospital for care. The Makizako questionnaire asks participants five questions that evaluate their social support, social activities, living situation, and perceived social role. A negative response to two or more of the five questions is an indicator of social frailty.
The study found that a patient’s perceived social role, as well as their overall social frailty, were associated with long-term adverse clinical outcomes in older heart failure patients. Both of these factors also increased the likelihood of a negative prognosis. The study followed patients for three years after their admission to the hospital, allowing the researchers to examine the long-term impact of social frailty on adverse clinical outcomes in older heart failure patients.
While the study was conducted in Japan, the researchers believe that social frailty is likely to adversely impact health in older heart failure patients in all societies. They recommend including a social aspect to aftercare for these patients, including participation in domestic tasks and social activities such as meaningful volunteer work, to improve their perception of social role and promote healthier and more productive lives.