Feeling lonely can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s in later life, a study suggests.
But researchers who identified the link drew a distinction between being alone and loneliness.
The Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (Amstel) looked at risk factors for depression, dementia and high death rates among 2,000 men and women aged 65 and older.
Participants who felt lonely were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia over three years as those who did not.
When influential factors including mental and physical health were taken into account, loneliness was still associated with a 64 per cent increased risk of the disease.
But other aspects of social isolation, such as living alone and being widowed, had no impact.
The findings were reported today in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
The authors, led by Dr Tjalling Jan Holwerda, from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, wrote: “These results suggest that feelings of loneliness independently contribute to the risk of dementia in later life.”