One Thing That Reduces Dementia Risk 40%

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Dementia risk can be reduced
40% in this common way.
Avoiding loneliness reduces
dementia risk by 40%, new research finds.
The study helps underline the
striking effect of loneliness on health.
People can still feel lonely
despite regular contact with friends, family and colleagues, research shows.
Loneliness can be a feeling of
not fitting in with those around you — despite having a lot of social contact.

Dr Angelina Sutin, who led the
study, said:
“We are not the first people
to show that loneliness is associated with increased risk of dementia. 
But this is by far the largest
sample yet, with a long follow-up. 
And the population was more
The study followed 12,000
Americans over 50-years-old for up to 10 years.
All reported on their levels
of loneliness and took cognitive tests.
During the study, 1,104 people
developed dementia.
The results revealed that
those who reported the highest levels of loneliness were more likely to develop
Dr Sutin explained that
loneliness is different from social isolation:
“It’s a feeling that you do
not fit in or do not belong with the people around you. 
You can have somebody who
lives alone, who doesn’t have very much contact with people, but has enough—and
that fills their internal need for socializing. 
So even though objectively you
might think that person is socially isolated, they don’t feel lonely. 
The flip side is that you can
be around a lot of people and be socially engaged and interactive and still
feel like you don’t belong. 
From the outside it looks like
you have great social engagement, but the subjective feeling is that you’re not
part of the group.”

Loneliness may be linked to
dementia through a number of paths:
Meaningful social contact may
help to keep the brain engaged and healthy.

Lonely people may experience
more inflammation in their bodies.
Loneliness may lead to
unhealthy behaviours like drinking.

Escaping loneliness is not
easy, but it is at least amenable to change, Dr Sutin said:
“Loneliness is a modifiable
risk factor. 
Most people might describe
periods where they felt lonely and then periods where they didn’t feel lonely. 
So just because you feel
lonely now, you don’t always have to feel this way.”
The study was published in the
Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences (Sutin et al., 2018).

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.