The risk of dementia increases by 30% if you live alone in the 50s and 60s, because isolation takes a much bigger toll than previously thought, research says
- Research by University College London examined 21,666 people over the age of 55
- The authors warned that there are more and more elderly people living alone
- Loneliness, stress and lack of cognitive stimulation can all be factors in the rise
Living alone in your 50s and 60s increases the risk of dementia by a third, a study says.
Loneliness and social isolation have a much greater impact on the condition than previously thought, according to research from University College London.
Data from 21,666 over-55s showed that singles were 30 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other dementias, possibly a greater factor than physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure.
The authors warned that as a growing number of older people live alone, dementia levels may rise. There are already 850,000 British patients and it is the leading cause of death in the country.
Researchers at University College London have discovered that dementia and Alzheimer’s risk may be up to 30 percent higher in singles between the ages of 50 and 60 (stock image)
Lead author Dr. Roopal Desai said, “It could be because people who live alone experience more loneliness or more stress … or it could be due to a lack of cognitive stimulation, which is necessary to maintain neural connections.”
Researchers combined results from 12 existing studies in seven countries in Europe and Asia. They concluded that if social isolation were to be completely eliminated, the number of dementia cases would drop by 8.9 percent.
Senior author Dr. Georgina Charlesworth said, “Finding ways to stay cognitively, socially and physically active is important to our well-being and to reduce the risk of dementia.”
Previous studies have found that having an active social life and seeing friends or family daily helps reduce the risk of dementia.
Strategies such as social prescribing, which refer people to community groups, have recently been disrupted by the blocking of the virus.
The principal investigator of the study at UCL Dr. Roopal Desai said loneliness, stress, and a lack of cognitive stimulation can all be factors in the increased risk (file photo)
Fiona Carragher of the Alzheimer’s Society, who funded the study, said, “Research like this is critical to understanding how we can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
There are steps we can now take to reduce our risk, such as keeping ourselves physically, mentally and socially active while on a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding smoking. ‘
Caroline Abrahams of Age UK added, ‘The last few months of closure and foreclosure have been particularly difficult for older people, especially those who lived alone. We will have to do much more to enable them to live safely and well among us. This is even more true for people who age with dementia. ‘