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Loneliness causes Alzheimer's?

6th February 2007

04042006_old_woman_window_400.jpgPeople who feel alone are more prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease in later life, says a new study.

Researchers have found that those who suffer loneliness are twice as likely to develop the degenerative brain disease as those who have little experience of isolation. Previous research proved a link between social isolation and dementia but this new study has found a specific connection between loneliness and Alzheimer’s.

The study of more than 800 elderly people over a four-year period showed that someone with a middling loneliness rating had twice the Alzheimer's risk of those with a low score. Nine per cent of those who took part in the study developed Alzheimer’s over the four-year period. Exactly why loneliness is linked to the degenerative brain disease is still unknown; post-mortem examinations show no links between typical brain changes in an Alzheimer’s sufferer that can be connected to feelings of isolation. A spokesperson for the study team said more research was now needed to establish how negative emotions affect the brain.

Dr Susanne Sorensen, Head of Research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said, "The things we do with our spare time can have a real impact on the health of our hearts and brains and this latest study supports previous research on the risk of developing dementia.?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK and affects nearly a quarter of a million Britons. There is currently no cure for the disease which affects 18 million people worldwide. Some sufferers are able to take medication to delay the progress of inevitable symptoms such as memory loss and the inability to perform everyday tasks such as washing and dressing.

 

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