A new study suggests that feeling lonely throughout life can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease during the later years. Researchers drew a direct link between loneliness, being alone, and developing the disease.
The Amsterdam Study of the Elderly conducted the research survey that took a look at common risk factors for dementia and depression and found high dates in almost two thousand men and women aged 65 and older.
Participants that stated they felt lonely were almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s later in life or some other form of dementia and memory loss. When additional factors such as physical health and mental health were accounted for, then loneliness actually was linked to a 64% increase in developing the disease.
However, other common aspects of being socially isolated, such as being widowed and living alone did not increase or decrease any risk factor for developing the disease. At the beginning of the Dutch study about 46% of the participants were living alone and out of those in the study about half were single or not married any longer. Out of those about one-fifth or 205% stated that they felt lonely.
Dr. Tjalling Jan Holwerda from the VU University Medical Centre and the lead author stated that the results suggest that being lonely contributes the risk of developing some type of loneliness later on in life. However, it was interesting to note that being alone and feeling lonely were not actually the same thing and had separate risk factors.