Loneliness in Old Age Associated with Increased Alzheimer's Risk
Researchers have long suggested the importance of elderly maintaining social relationships well into old age.
And now we know that nurturing social relationships is good for your brain. A recent study has taken a closer look at what this could mean for the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
A Dutch study linked loneliness in old age with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s important to note that being alone and loneliness are not the same thing. Living alone and being widowed did not necessarily increase one’s risk of feeling lonely. "Loneliness has a significant influence on both physical and mental health."
According to The Independent, "The Amsterdam study of the elderly (Amstel) looked at risk factors for depression, dementia, and high death rates among 2,000 men and women 65 and older. Participants who felt lonely were 64 percent more likely to develop dementia over the next 3 years."
Other factors like physical and mental health were taken into account and the results were still the same.
"Interestingly, the fact that 'feeling lonely' rather than 'being alone' was associated with dementia onset suggests that it is not the objective situation, but, rather, the perceived absence of social attachments that increases the risk of cognitive decline, said researchers on The Independent."
This leads researchers to speculate that loneliness may be an effect of dementia rather than a cause. Dementia consists of a group of symptoms impacting intellectual and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia.
5 Ways to Prevent Dementia As You Age
1. Healthy Diet
2. Regular Exercise
3. Continued Mental Stimulation
4. Social Interaction
5. Reducing Stress
"As Christmas approaches, many of us are looking forward to full houses and festive parties. However, for others it can be a time that can really heighten loneliness. As this study suggests, feeling lonely could have close links to dementia," said Jessica Smith, research officer at the Alzheimer's Society on The Independent.