Tags: lonely | senior | dementia

Loneliness Linked to Dementia in Seniors

Thursday, 13 Dec 2012 10:17 AM

Seniors who feel lonely face a markedly increased risk of developing dementia in later life, according to new research out of Amsterdam.
The findings, published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, suggest that simply living alone does not increase a senior’s risk of dementia, but loneliness and social isolation — defined as having few friends, no partner/spouse, and not many social interactions — may play a key role in dementia’s development.
"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 the authors of the study, which tracked 2,000 seniors living in Amsterdam. "These results suggest that feelings of loneliness independently contribute to the risk of dementia in later life."
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Past studies have linked various factors to dementia and Alzheimer's disease, including older age, underlying medical conditions, genes, impaired cognition, and depression. But the new study sought to examine the potential impacts of loneliness and social isolation.
Researchers tracked the long-term health and well-being of seniors taking part in the so-called Amsterdam Study of the Elderly, which is examining risk factors for depression, dementia, and premature death among older people. Seniors were quizzed about their physical health, their ability to carry out daily tasks, and feelings of loneliness. They were also tested for signs of dementia.
At the start of the three-year study, about half the seniors were living alone and half were single or no longer married. Three out of four said they had no social support. One in five said they felt lonely.
The results showed those who said they felt lonely were more than twice as likely to have developed dementia after three years compared with those who did not — 13.4 percent, compared with 5.7 percent. What’s more, those who lived alone or who were no longer married were between 70 percent and 80 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who lived with others or who were married.
The findings suggest that loneliness may affect cognition and memory as a result of loss of regular use, or that loneliness could itself be a sign of emerging dementia.
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Seniors who feel lonely have been found to face a markedly increased risk of developing dementia.
Thursday, 13 Dec 2012 10:17 AM
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