Is Loneliness a Big Risk Factor for Dementia?

loneliness and dementia

Many risk factors have been connected with dementia – from our education levels, to nutrition habits and physical activity. Recent studies have added another risk factor to this list – the feeling of loneliness. It appears that loneliness and dementia might be in a rather strong correlation.

Research Proves It

In 2014, a group of scientists from the ARKIN Mental Health Care in Amsterdam hypothesized that a feeling of loneliness could contribute to developing dementia in late adulthood. The important distinction here is between “feeling of loneliness” and “being alone”. Feeling lonely is not simply an objective situation of living alone in a home – it refers to a perceived lacking social connection.

The researchers studied a group of 2,173 people aged 65 years or older, and checked their results again, after three years. People who reported a feeling of loneliness had a 64% higher risk of developing clinical dementia in later life.

Three years later, in May 2017, the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment came to a similar conclusion with the U.S. population. Participants underwent assessments of depression and loneliness, and the connection between loneliness and dementia was, once more, confirmed.

What Can You Do?

Given these points, there are a couple of things you or your loved ones can do to reduce the risk of age-related cognitive impairment:

  • Reach out – Family gatherings, unexpected friendly visits, or even phone calls can help decrease the feeling of loneliness. Pay a visit to your loved ones and spend some meaningful time together.
  • Join a group activity – Try learning a new skill, joining a class or a gym. Physical activity can also help increase the feeling of acceptance and is good for your brain and body. Who knows, you might actually make some friends!
  • Buy a pet – Dogs and cats can sometimes be as caring and loving as humans. Get yourself a furry friend and enjoy its company!

Loneliness and dementia go hand-in-hand. Remember – being alone and feeling alone are completely different things. Don’t be afraid to welcome people into your life and work on your relationships.