Loneliness may increase the risk of dementia

By NZDF. Published on 23/6/2020

A new British research study suggests that loneliness, but not social isolation, predicts the development of dementia in older people.

Older people who feel lonely and have few close relationships may have an increased chance of developing dementia. Perhaps surprisingly, being socially isolated with few or infrequent social contacts does not seem to predict dementia risk, researchers found.

This study included adults aged 50 and over in England, who are living independently. They are part of the ongoing English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and are assessed every two years. Researchers looked at data on 6,677 people (3,716 women) with a mean age of 66, from 2004 onwards. Participants were interviewed face-to-face and took cognitive tests. Being lonely increased the risk of dementia by one-third.

This study was carried out before the coronavirus pandemic but the findings are relevant now, when the over-70s are socially isolated.  It suggests that those who have supportive social relationships with relatives and carers may be protected from cognitive decline. The quality of their relationships seems to be more important than how often they meet up in person.

Source: National Institute for Health Research


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