COVID-19 Self Isolation

Social isolation raises your risk of dementia by 26% and shrinks your brain

COVID-19 Self-isolation

The study found that social isolation is directly linked to later dementia.

Social isolation was found to be an independent risk factor for dementia.

According to the research, social isolation is a clear risk factor for dementia, as it is directly linked to changes in the areas of the brain responsible for memory.

Researchers from the Universities of Warwick, Cambridge and Fudan University analyzed neuroimaging data from more than 30,000 adults in the UK Biobank dataset to examine how social isolation and loneliness were linked to eventual dementia. Gray matter volumes of the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning were found to be lower in socially isolated people.

The study findings were recently published in the journal Neurology.

The researchers used modeling tools to look at the relative correlations between social isolation and loneliness and incidental all-cause dementia using data from the UK Biobank, a large longitudinal cohort. After taking into account a number of risk variables, such as socioeconomic status, chronic illness, lifestyle choices, depression and APOE genotype, social isolation was shown to be associated with a 26% higher risk of dementia.

Loneliness was also linked to later dementia, although not after controlling for depression, which accounted for 75% of the link between loneliness and dementia. Therefore, objective social isolation, in contrast to the subjective experience of loneliness, is an independent risk factor for developing dementia later in life. The impact was more noticeable in those over 60, according to further subgroup analyses.

Professor Edmund Rolls, a neuroscientist from the

University of Warwick
Founded in 1965 as part of a government initiative to expand higher education, the University of Warwick is a public research university with 29 academic departments and more than 50 research centers and institutes. It is located on the outskirts of Coventry between the West Midlands and Warwickshire, England.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{” attribute=””>University of Warwick Department of Computer Science, says, “There is a difference between social isolation, which is an objective state of low social connections, and loneliness, which is subjectively perceived social isolation. Both have risks to health but, using the extensive multi-modal data set from the UK 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. This means it can be used as a predictor or biomarker for dementia in the UK.”

He continues, “With the growing prevalence of social isolation and loneliness over the past decades, this has been a serious yet underappreciated public health problem. Now, in the shadow of the

Reference: “Associations of Social Isolation and Loneliness With Later Dementia” by Chun Shen, Edmund T. Rolls, Wei Cheng, Jujiao Kang, Guiying Dong, Chao Xie, Xing-Ming Zhao, Barbara J. Sahakian and Jianfeng Feng, 8 June 2022, Neurology.
DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200583


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