Study finds later dementia linked to social isolation
Scientists have found that a major cause of dementia is social isolation, which causes changes in brain structures associated with memory, according to a study from the University of Warwick. To investigate how social isolation and loneliness were linked to later dementia, researchers from the University of Warwick, Cambridge University and Fudan University used neuroimaging data from more than 30,000 participants in the UK Biobank dataset. Socially isolated individuals have lower gray matter volumes in brain regions involved in memory and learning.
The study results are published online today (June 8, 2022) in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, in an article titled “Associations of social isolation and loneliness with later dementia” by Shen, Rolls, Cheng, Kang, Dong, Xie, Zhao, Sahakian and Feng. Using data from the UK Biobank, a hugely large longitudinal cohort, the researchers used modeling techniques to investigate the relative associations of social isolation and loneliness with incident dementia from all causes. After adjusting for various risk factors (including socioeconomic factors, chronic disease, lifestyle, depression, and APOE genotype), socially isolated individuals have been shown to have an increased likelihood of developing dementia. by 26%.
Loneliness was also associated with later dementia, but this association was not significant after adjusting for depression, which explained 75% of the relationship between loneliness and dementia. Therefore, compared to the subjective feeling of loneliness, objective social isolation is an independent risk factor for later dementia. Further subgroup analysis showed that the effect was predominant in people over 60 years of age. Professor Edmund Rolls, a neuroscientist from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, said: “There is a difference between social isolation, which is an objective state of weak social relationships, and loneliness, which is a subjectively perceived social isolation.
“Both pose health risks but, using the UK Biocomputational scbank’s large multimodal dataset and working in a multidisciplinary way linking science and neuroscience, we were able to show that it is social isolation, rather than feelings of loneliness, which is an independent risk factor for later dementia. This means it can be used as a predictor or biomarker of dementia in the UK.” With the increasing prevalence of social isolation and loneliness over the past few decades has been a serious, underappreciated public health problem. Now, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are implications for interventions and care in social relationships – especially in the elderly population.” Professor Jianfeng Feng, from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, said: “We emphasize the importance of an environmental approach to reducing the risk of dementia in older people by ensuring that they are not socially isolated. During any future pandemic lockdown, it is important that individuals, especially the elderly, do not experience social isolation. »
Professor Barbara J Sahakian, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry, said: “Now that we know the risk of social isolation to brain health and dementia, it is important that government and communities take steps to measures to ensure that older people can communicate and interact regularly with others.” (ANI)
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