Living alone increases the risk of dementia by 30%

Researchers at University College London have found that people over 55 who live alone are more likely to develop senile dementia. The authors believe that loneliness is one of the most serious risk factors, even more so than a lack of physical activity, hypertension, diabetes, or obesity. An article is published in Aging Research Reviews.

The team meta-analyzed 12 studies on the relationship between loneliness and social isolation and the development of cognitive impairment in old age. The survey checked data from 21,666 individuals over 55 years of age. As a result, the authors found that living alone greatly increases the risk of developing dementia among the elderly by 30%. This is higher than other serious risk factors, such as sedentary lifestyle or obesity.

Scientists attribute this to the fact that people living alone are likely to experience more stress (for example, due to the loss of loved ones), which has adverse physical effects on health. In addition, it may be related to the lack of cognitive stimulation, which is important for maintaining neural connections in the brain.

Researchers note that even if older people already experience dementia symptoms, lifestyle changes (specifically, an increase in the quantity and quality of social connections) can slow down the rate of cognitive impairment.

A previous study in 2017 showed that if social isolation is avoided, the risk of dementia can be reduced by 5.9%. This work demonstrates that this probability can be reduced by 8.9%.

Scientists point out that living alone is difficult emotionally and in the household, so it is crucial to provide older people with social endorsement and to involve them in social life to stimulate cognitive functions.

July 27, 2020, 11:23 a.m.

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