Long-term loneliness linked to faster memory aging in older people

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Scientists from the University of Michigan found prolonged loneliness in adults over 65 may be an important risk factor for faster memory aging.

They found that feeling lonely for a longer duration of time was associated with more rapid memory decline, suggesting that it is never too late in life to work on reducing feelings of loneliness to support healthy aging.

The research is published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association and was conducted by Lindsay Kobayashi et al.

In the study, the team analyzed interview data from more than 9,000 adults over the age of 50 from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study from 1996 to 2016.

They evaluated participants’ cumulative durations of loneliness from 1996 to 2004 in relation to changes in memory function over the following 12 years from 2004 to 2016.

The team found the association between loneliness and memory aging was strongest in individuals aged 65 and over, with women experiencing stronger and faster memory declines than men.

They say women tend to have larger social networks than men, which may make women less likely to feel lonely than men, but more vulnerable once experiencing long-term loneliness.

Social stigma and the reluctance to admit loneliness may also be a factor in this observed gender-specific association.

The researchers say that loneliness and objective social isolation are important factors in the health of older adults and that reducing loneliness in mid-to-late life may help maintain memory function for a longer duration.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how to stop dementia from the nose, and this eye problem may signal a higher risk of stroke, and dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and results showing how to prevent frontotemporal dementia.

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