-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly people who feel
lonely are at increased risk for dementia, according to a new
The researchers emphasized that feeling lonely is distinct from
The study, published online Dec. 10 in the
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, included
more than 2,000 elderly people in the Netherlands who had no signs
of dementia. Nearly half of the participants lived alone, about 75
percent said they had no social support, and about 20 percent said
they felt lonely.
After three years of follow-up, dementia had developed in about
9 percent of those who lived alone and in roughly 6 percent of
those who lived with others; about 5 percent of those with social
support and about 11 percent of those without social support; and
in more than 13 percent of those who were lonely and almost 6
percent of those who weren't lonely.
Further analysis revealed that people who lived alone or who
were no longer married were between 70 percent and 80 percent more
likely to develop dementia than those who lived with others or were
married, the investigators found.
Those who were lonely were more than 2.5 times more likely to
develop dementia than those who weren't lonely, according to the
When the researchers took into account other influential
factors, they found that people who were lonely were still 64
percent more likely to develop dementia, while other aspects of
social isolation had no effect.
"These results suggest that feelings of loneliness independently contribute to the risk of dementia in later life," the study authors wrote in a journal news release.
They said their findings, which applied equally to men and
women, are potentially important given the aging population and the
increasing number of people living alone.
While the study found an association between loneliness and
raised risk of dementia, it did not prove a cause-and-effect
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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