Long-Term Loneliness Linked to a Higher Risk of Dementia

Long-Term Loneliness Linked to a Higher Risk of Dementia

The findings of previous research that indicate a connection between loneliness and higher chances of developing dementia are incoherent. A recent study focused on people who don’t have this condition and suggests that those who feel lonesome more than three days per week have higher chances of suffering from dementia. Also, people older than 80 years who are at no risk of developing dementia due to genetic factors and often feel lonely are more likely to develop the condition.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many people felt incredibly lonely. Loneliness can have a negative impact on health and is linked to higher chances of suffering from CVDs. Yet, earlier research findings on whether loneliness is linked to a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline were inconsistent. Therefore, the researchers that conducted this study further investigated the link between dementia and loneliness. They used data from 2,308 people who don’t have this condition and followed them over ten years. The main focus was on participants older than 60 years to get more accurate results. 

14% of the participants developed dementia at the end of the study. However, the link between loneliness and higher chances of developing dementia was not substantial in people older than 80 years. Moreover, those younger than 80 years who felt lonely had an increased risk of developing dementia than those who did not experience loneliness.

The study also investigated the impact of genetic risk factors on the link between being lonely and the likelihood of developing dementia. It was found that people who carry the APOE ε4 gene were more likely to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Moreover, the research team found a link between solitude and early cognitive and brain imaging indicators in people younger than 80 years. The findings suggest that loneliness may play a role in the early stages of mental decline and possibly increase the chances of suffering from dementia.

Nevertheless, the team calls for further research to shed light on whether being lonely more often is a reason for developing dementia or only a consequence of this condition.

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

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