Social isolation linked to greater risk of dementia in the elderly, study finds – The Hill

Story at a glance

  • Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found a connection between social isolation among older adults and dementia.

  • Researchers examined health data on over 5,000 older adults in the United States with a mean age of 76 and published their findings in the Journal of American Geriatric Society.

  • Socially isolated adults have a 28 percent greater risk of getting dementia than their more social peers.

Social isolation among older adults has been linked to a greater risk of developing dementia, according to a new study.  

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University examined data on 5,022 older adults with a mean age of 76 in the United States 1,172 of whom were socially isolated.  

Most of the older adults in the study were non-Hispanic white women with more than a college education.  

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As a result, researchers found that socially isolated older adults had an almost 28 percent greater chance of developing dementia over nine years compared to their socialized peers.  

The findings of the researchers’ analysis were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on Wednesday.  

Having little social interaction is, unfortunately, common among older adults with more than one out of every adult 65 and older considered to be socially isolated, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  

Study crafters wanted to find out the connection between social isolation and dementia and whether race and ethnicity contributed in some way to the relationship between the two.  

However, researchers did not observe a significant difference in social isolation and incidents of dementia among older adults of different races and ethnicities.  

The study adds to the growing body of research connecting social isolation among older adults and negative health outcomes.  

One recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that social isolation and loneliness increase the chances of heart attack or stroke among older adults by 30 percent.  

Future research on social isolation and dementia should investigate racial and ethnic disparities and investigate screening for social isolation as means of reducing the risk of dementia in older adults, the study authors wrote.