Summary: Loneliness and lack of social support increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. The findings add to growing evidence linking social isolation to Alzheimer’s disease.
A new study published this week in the Open Access Journal found that social determinants of lifestyle, including social isolation, are associated with increased risk of neurodegeneration. PLOS One By Kimia Shafighi and colleagues at McGill University in Canada.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) are a growing public health crisis, costing more than $1 trillion annually. There is increasing evidence that social isolation is associated with ADRD, but the link between social lifestyle and other known risk factors for ADRD is poorly understood.
In the new work, the researchers studied data on 502,506 UK Biobank participants and 30,097 people in the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging. Both studies had questionnaires that included questions about loneliness, frequency of social interaction, and social support.
The study found several associations between modifiable risk factors for ADHD and loneliness and lack of social support. Individuals who smoke heavily, drink too much alcohol, experience sleep disturbances, and fail to engage in frequent light-to-vigorous physical activity—all known risk factors for ADRD—are more likely to experience loneliness and lack of social support.
For example, in the CLSA, increased regular participation in physical activity with other people was associated with a 20.1% reduction in feelings of loneliness and a 26.9% reduction in poor social support.
Physical and mental health issues previously associated with ADRD, such as cardiovascular disease, visual or hearing impairment, diabetes, and neurotic and depressive behaviors, have been associated with both subjective and objective social isolation. For example, in UKBB, hearing loss in background noise was associated with 29.0% increased odds of feeling lonely and 9.86% increased odds of lack of social support.
Loneliness and lack of social support were 3.7 and 1.4 times greater, respectively, for the neuroticism score per participant.
The authors conclude that social stigma, which is more easily modifiable than genetic or health risk factors, may be a promising target for preventive clinical measures and policy interventions.
“Given the uncertain impact of social distancing measures imposed by Covid-19, our findings highlight the importance of examining the multifaceted effects of social isolation to inform public health interventions for ADHD,” the authors added.
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Preliminary study: Open Access.
“Social isolation is associated with chronic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia.By Kimia Shafighi et al. PLOS One
Social isolation is associated with chronic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are a major public health burden—complicated by longevity in the coming years. Recently, clinical evidence has suggested that the experience of social isolation accelerates the onset of dementia.
We assessed cultural risk factors for dementia in loneliness and lack of social support in 502,506 UK Biobank participants and 30,097 Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging participants.
With these subjective and objective measures of social deprivation, we identified strong associations between individuals’ social capital and various Alzheimer’s disease markers and related dementia risk markers, which were replicated in both population groups.
The quality and quantity of daily social interactions was deeply related to key etiopathological factors representing 1) personal habits and lifestyles, 2) physical health, 3) mental health, and 4) social and external factors.
Our population-based analysis indicates that social lifestyle determinants are associated with the majority of neurodegeneration risks, highlighting promising targets for preventive clinical measures.