Study finds link between loneliness and Alzheimer’s disease

Posted under Blog on December 17th, 2012 by Editorial Team / No Comments


Contact the Elderly is a UK-based charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people. Volunteers organize monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people (aged 75+) who live alone and volunteers within their local community, offering a regular and vital friendship link every month.  
Their work, and that of similar organizations around the world, takes on more significance in light of a recent study carried out by Dutch researchers that discovered a significant link between feelings of loneliness and the risk of having Alzheimer’s disease. 
The Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (Amstel), led by Dr Tjalling Jan Holwerda from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, tracked the long-term health and well-being of over 2,000 patients without signs of dementia. 
The study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, found that those who suffer from loneliness have a 64% greater risk of dementia.  
“These results,” the authors say, “suggest that feelings of loneliness independently contribute to the risk of dementia in later life.  Interestingly, the fact that ‘feeling lonely’ rather than ‘being alone’ was associated with dementia onset suggests that it is not the objective situation but, rather, the perceived absence of social attachments that increases the risk of cognitive decline.” 
Experts in Alzheimer’s have reacted cautiously to the study, pointing out that age is still the biggest factor in the development of the disease.  Regardless, it is important that older people, particularly those living alone, are supported and encouraged to play an active role within their communities.
Contact the Elderly volunteer groups operate at weekends, when most community services for older people are not available. Sunday has been highlighted by members as being a particularly lonely day of the week.  The organization was a recent recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award 2012, in recognition of the long-term commitment of the volunteers across England, Scotland and Wales. 

Tags: Alzheimer's, Contact the Elderly, loneliness and Alzheimer’s, loneliness and dementia



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