A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School has found that older adults who reported feeling lonely or socially isolated were more likely to develop dementia than those who had stronger social connections. The study, which was conducted over a period of four years and involved over 10,000 participants, found that social isolation was associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline, even when other factors such as age, sex, and physical health were taken into account.
According to lead author Dr. Thomas Cudjoe, “Our study provides strong evidence that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, over and above the effects of other known risk factors such as age, sex, and physical health. The study suggests that reducing social isolation in older adults could help to lower their risk of developing dementia.”
The study also found that social isolation was linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. “This research adds to a growing body of evidence that social isolation is a major public health issue,” said Dr. Cudjoe.
The findings of the study have significant implications for public health policy, as they suggest that efforts to reduce social isolation in older adults could help to lower their risk of developing dementia. According to the World Health Organization, dementia affects around 50 million people worldwide and this number is projected to triple by 2050.
Dr. Cudjoe also added, “Given the increasing older population and the projected increase in cases of dementia, it is important that we find ways to reduce the risk of dementia and improve the quality of life for those who are affected.”
The study’s findings align with previous research, which has also found a link between social isolation and an increased risk of dementia. A 2019 study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that older adults who reported feeling lonely were more likely to experience cognitive decline, and a 2020 study published in the Journal of Aging and Health found that social isolation was associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
In conclusion, this study provides strong evidence that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, and highlights the importance of reducing social isolation in older adults as a way to lower their risk of developing dementia. The study emphasizes the need for public health policies that target social isolation among older adults and the need for more research on the topic.