Older people lose their memory faster in social isolation

Every year, the memory of an elderly person deteriorates by 1-2% – this is considered a normal sign of natural aging. An increase in the rate of memory loss is one of the signs of developing dementia. Experts from the London School of Economics analyzed data from more than 11 thousand elderly people who participated in the English longitudinal study of aging. It turned out that one of the key factors that accelerate memory loss is social isolation.

Thus, older men with a high degree of social isolation, i.e. with a minimum number of contacts with other people, lost their memory three times faster than participants with an average degree of isolation-18% and 6%, respectively, annually. In women with a high degree of social isolation, memory also deteriorated by 18% each year, with an average of 4%. 

The link between the lack of social contacts and memory impairment was assumed earlier, but it was not clear which of these factors is primary: there was an opinion that memory loss is a prerequisite for isolation from society. However, in this study, it was found that the primary factor that triggers the process of memory deterioration is social isolation. Experts believe that this situation will worsen in the future, due to the growing number of childless families and families with few children.

Among the positive aspects found in the study, scientists note the fact that to overcome social isolation and prevent further deterioration of memory, it is enough to increase the frequency of social contacts, and their quality does not play a significant role. This means that single people do not need to look for a new partner for family relationships or seek to establish a deep friendship. It is enough to visit communities of interest, communicate with social workers, talk to neighbors – all this allows you to reduce the destructive impact of loneliness on memory. 

Jan. 29, 2020, 12:42 p.m.

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