Health Update: Social Isolation and Loneliness Up Dementia Risk

Hello again everyone:

 This is a topic that I covered before, however, it is really very relevant today because of how the pandemic has forced many of us into socially isolated situations. It turns out that…guess what…social isolation and loneliness result in an increased burden of inflammation.

“Social isolation was linked with lower volume in brain areas related to cognition and associated with a higher risk of subsequent dementia as well, a longitudinal study showed. Recent research has shown that lonely older adults who otherwise would be expected to have relatively low risk had a threefold greater risk of dementia than those who weren’t lonely. Midlife loneliness also has been tied to late-life dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Few studies, however, have looked at social isolation separately from loneliness.

“There is a difference between social isolation, which is an objective state of low social connections, and loneliness, which is subjectively perceived social isolation,” said co-author Edmund Rolls, PhD, of the University of Warwick in England.

“Both have risks to health but using the extensive multi-modal data set from the U.K. Biobank and working in a multidisciplinary way linking computational sciences and neuroscience, we have been able to show that it is social isolation, rather than the feeling of loneliness, which is an independent risk factor for later dementia,” he noted.

“With the growing prevalence of social isolation and loneliness over the past decades, this has been a serious yet underappreciated public health problem,” Rolls added. “Now, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic there are implications for social relationship interventions and care, particularly in the older population.”

“Through a systematic investigation of the associations between social isolation, chronic inflammation, and adult mortality by cause using a nationally representative, population-based sample, we find support for the hypothesis that lack of social embeddedness elevates mortality risk through physiological upregulation of chronic inflammation.”

Bottom Line:

Friends don’t let friends stay socially isolated…we connect with them and keep them engaged. We get together with them and arrange a diverse array of activities, from church to food shopping, to visiting, to hiking, pickleball, playing games, book clubs, or even asking for their help with a yard or other type of appropriate activity. As you know, inflammation will cause, perpetuate, or aggravate any type of ailment. As it turns out, social engagement is a potent anti-inflammatory medication!!! Who knew friendship could be so medicinal!!! Don’t stay isolated…and this applies to children who have excessive screen time and may not get outside or play much with others…for health’s sake get outside and get moving a bit…even a daily walk with a buddy or a walking meeting at work…just get together and do something…and the more fun it is, the better it will be!!





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