Here at The Optimist Daily, we’ve written a great deal about the contributing factors to Alzheimer’s disease and what you can do to help avoid it yourself. Exercise, proper diet, even knitting, and nifty nasal sprays can improve your chances, but recent findings suggest that just keeping in contact with people may significantly help avoid dementia.
Does loneliness cause dementia?
In a recent study published in Neurology, individuals who were at low risk of developing dementia but experienced loneliness multiple days a week were three times more likely to develop dementia than those with the same predisposition but experienced much less loneliness.
The study used multiple follow-ups over 10 years with a large group of 2,308 dementia-free individuals over 60. Of those, 320 developed dementia, and 144 felt regular loneliness. Those who didn’t experience loneliness were much less likely to develop dementia.
While there’s a lack of definitive data showing a causal link between loneliness and dementia, there is no question the two are linked. It might very well be a cause, it also might be a symptom, but the development of Alzheimer’s disease in lonely people might be in the same harmful mix of many other unhealthy traits.
The benefits of company
Individuals who live with another individual enjoy greater health benefits than those living alone. Romantic couples benefit each other by sharing resources, having regular sex, sharing emotional intimacy, and are stimulated with daily interaction. This last one is big not just for romantic couples living together. Those with active social lives have been shown to have better memory and cognitive ability than isolated individuals.
Being social creatures, humans also most easily enjoy a release of pleasure-inducing chemical compounds such as dopamine and oxytocin by interacting in various ways with other humans. The regular release of these chemical compounds has been shown to improve brain health and longevity.
Additionally, having other people in your life may spur on more healthy activities by association, such as walking or exercising together or eating at regular intervals. These are contributors not just to positive brain health but health in general.