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Loneliness Increases Dementia Risk by 40 Percent

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

lonely man

Story at-a-glance -

  • Feeling lonely is a strong predictor of dementia and one modifiable risk factor that can potentially be improved to reduce dementia risk
  • Loneliness was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of dementia over the 10-year study period, and the link was independent of other risk factors including gender, education, race, ethnicity and even social isolation
  • Past research revealed that people who felt lonely had double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not
  • Loneliness may affect dementia risk by increasing inflammation in the body along with blood pressure, both of which may affect dementia risk; feeling lonely may also encourage you to engage in unhealthy behaviors linked to dementia, including excessive drinking or not exercising

In a survey of 20,000 U.S. adults, 46 percent said they sometimes or always feel alone. While on the surface this may seem to be a mental health issue, it's one that's intricately tied to physical health as well. Increasingly, research is showing that loneliness exacts a significant toll on your health, one that's equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and increases your risk of premature death.

Your brain health may also suffer as a result of feeling lonely, with a recent study — including the largest sample to date — showing loneliness is associated with increased risk of dementia. While this association has been revealed previously, the latest study is unique in that it included a diverse sample of more than 12,000 individuals with a long 10-year follow-up time.

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