Feeling lonely increases your risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease that steals memory
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia (ADRD) include smoking, excessive drinking, lack of sleep, and infrequent exercise.
Researchers have found that people with these bad habits may be more lonely and deprived of social support.
And while the development of Alzheimer’s disease and its associated dementia can be caused by many unchanging factors, such as heredity, a recent study suggests an easier way to reduce the risk of these neurological conditions.
The study found that by providing more social support and taking more preventative measures to prevent loneliness, people can avoid being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia (ADRD).
The researchers looked at data from 502,506 participants in the British Biobank and 30,097 participants in the Canadian Aging Study.
In both studies, participants were asked about loneliness and the frequency of social interaction and social support.
The study revealed a wide range of associations between modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and its associated dementia, loneliness, and lack of social support.
In a Canadian study, more regular participation in exercise with other people was associated with a 20.1% reduction in the likelihood of feeling lonely and a 26.9% reduction in poor social support.
Physical and mental health factors previously associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, such as cardiovascular disease, visual or hearing impairment, diabetes, neurotic and depressive behavior, have also been associated with social isolation.
Data from the British Biobank showed that hearing-impaired people surrounded by background noise increase their chances of feeling lonely by 29%.
Those who struggled to hear also saw a 9.86% increase in their chances of not having social support.
The likelihood of feeling lonely and lacking social support was 3.7 and 1.4 times higher, respectively, based on a participant’s score on neuroticism, a personality trait used to describe someone who experiences anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions.
The researchers concluded that loneliness may increase the risk of a neurodegenerative disease (dementia). They pointed out that social isolation, which is more easily modified through genetic or underlying health risk factors, could be a promising target for preventive clinical work and policy interventions.