Dementia: Social Isolation May Raise Risk

Social Isolation

Social isolation and loneliness have an impact on the brain & increase the risk of dementia in older persons.

Dementia risk may increase with social isolation because it may result in a decrease in brain volume in cognition-related regions of the brain. In addition to risk variables such as depression and loneliness, social isolation has been connected with a 27% greater risk of dementia.

The results indicate that social isolation is correlated with decreased grey matter volumes in the brain. Three inquiries concerning social interaction were asked of participants regarding social isolation:

  • If they shared a home with others
  • If they made at least one monthly visit with friends or relatives
  • If they engaged in social activities at least once a week, such as volunteering or attending clubs or meetings.

How Dementia Might Accelerate With Social Isolation

There is a strong correlation between physical and mental health risk factors for dementia, such as depression, hypertension, and coronary heart disease with social isolation. Social isolation may raise the risk of dementia since it fosters these diseases. A lower cognitive reserve may result from a decrease in cognitive activity.

This arises due to a lack of social involvement. Social support, information exchange, and access to and coordination of healthcare services are among the advantages. These come with increased social connectivity that may be lacking in socially isolated people.

Individuals in their latter years who experience social isolation or loneliness also tend to score lower on cognitive tests, particularly when evaluating data quickly. Furthermore, throughout several years of follow-up testing, the performance on these same exams declines more quickly in people who experience loneliness.

It seems that loneliness may exacerbate cognitive decline in several ways. These include physical inactivity, depressive symptoms, insomnia, high blood pressure, and inflammation. Additionally, as per the study, social isolation raises the risk of dementia by up to 27%.

How Social Isolation Can Affect Health

There is evidence that long-term loneliness has negative health effects. How then do those emotions turn into illness?

Isolation and loneliness can be contributing factors to harmful habits including smoking, excessive alcohol use, and insufficient exercise.

Another significant social stressor that may result in the body responding negatively is loneliness. Prolonged exposure to that reaction, especially in elderly individuals, can result in heightened inflammation and lowered immunity. The body uses inflammation as a protection against infection or to cure an injury. Thus, excessive inflammation can have negative effects on health.

Stress hormones have a significant function in preventing excessive inflammation. However, continuous stress causes the body to become less responsive to the stress hormones. This raises inflammation and ultimately results in illness.

Social isolation in healthy older adults is linked to a stress hormone pattern that resembles that of chronically stressed individuals. The rationale behind the worse attention, reasoning, and memory skills of lonelier individuals was due to a different stress response pattern.

Connecting Again to Promote Mental Wellness

Social distancing has an impact on cognitive function. To reduce their chance of acquiring dementia, elderly people should think about interacting with others more. Whether it be one-on-one or through group activities.

Try to shift your attention from what is now impractical to what you can do to keep in touch and create a plan of action. This may include making plans to be in touch with friends and family or doing new things at home, like book clubs or online classes.

Self-care is crucial when stress levels are high. To handle stress and preserve both physical and mental health, adhere to advice for maintaining regular exercise and sleep schedules. Moreover, maintain a nutritious diet and carry on with pleasant hobbies.