Social isolation is directly related to subsequent dementia

Summary: Social isolation was directly related to structural changes in brain regions associated with memory and cognitive function. Researchers estimate that people who are socially isolated are 26% more likely to develop dementia later in life.

A source: Warwick University

Scientists have found that social isolation is directly related to changes in brain structures related to memory, which is an obvious risk factor for dementia.

Researchers from the University of Warwick, the University of Cambridge and the University of Fudan used the neurovisual data of more than 30,000 participants in the UK Biobank’s data set to study how social isolation and loneliness are associated with subsequent dementia. In socially isolated individuals, areas of the brain involved in memory and learning have been found to have low levels of gray matter.

The results of the study were published online neurology.

Based on data from the British Biobank, a very large longitudinal cohort, the researchers used modeling techniques to study the relationship between social isolation and loneliness compared to dementia caused by all causes.

After adjusting for various risk factors (including socioeconomic factors, chronic disease, lifestyle, depression, and APOE genotypes), the probability of developing dementia in socially isolated individuals increased by 26%.

Loneliness was also later associated with dementia, but this association was not significant after adaptation to depression, which explained 75% of the relationship between loneliness and dementia. Thus, in contrast to the subjective feeling of loneliness, objective social isolation is an independent risk factor for later mental disorders. Further analysis of the subgroup showed that the effect was more pronounced in people over 60 years of age.

Data show that socially isolated people are 26% more likely to develop dementia later in life.

Professor Edmund Rolls, a neurobiologist at the Department of Informatics at the University of Warwick, said:

“Both pose health risks, but using extensive multimodal data from the UK’s Biobank and working in a multidisciplinary way that connects computing and neuroscience, we have been able to show that this is not a feeling, but social isolation. Loneliness is the eye for later dementia.” is an independent risk factor. This means it can be used as a predictor or as a biomarker for the less intelligent in the UK.

“With the increase in social isolation and loneliness in recent decades, this has become a serious but underestimated problem of public health. Now, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, interference and care in social relations have consequences, especially for the elderly population.

Jiangfeng Feng, a professor of computer science at the University of Warwick, said: “We emphasize the importance of the environmental approach to reducing the risk of mental retardation through the social exclusion of older people. It is important that people, especially the elderly, do not become socially isolated during future pandemics.

Barbara J. Sahakyan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said: “Now that we know that dementia is a threat to brain health and social isolation, governments and communities need to take action to ensure that older people communicate. Interact with others on a regular basis. ”

News on social isolation and dementia research

Author: Sheila Kiggins
A source: Warwick University
The connection: Sheila Kiggins – University of Warwick
Photo: Image in public domain

Original study: Closed access.
Edmund Rolls neurology


Later associations with dementia, social isolation and loneliness

See also

This shows the person who is surfing

The goal

Study of independent associations of social isolation and loneliness with incidental dementia and study of potential neurobiological mechanisms.


We used the UK Biobank cohort to create social isolation and loneliness as a separate effect of Coke’s proportional risk models. Demographic (gender, age and ethnicity), socio-economic (education level, household income and Townsend Absence Index), biological (BMI, APOE genotype, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other disabilities), cognitive (processing speed and visual memory), behavioral (current smoking, alcohol and physical activity) and psychological perception (social isolation or loneliness, depressive symptoms and neuroticism) factors are measured. reset. Then, analyzes of the general association of the vocal cords were used to determine the amount of gray matter (GMV) associated with social isolation and loneliness. Using Allen’s human brain atlas, Alger performed a partial least squared regression to verify the spatial correlation and gene expression of GMV differences.


We included 462,619 participants (mean age of primary 57.0 years). [SD 8.1]). With an average follow-up of 11.7 years (SD 1.7), 4,998 developed dementia for all reasons. Social isolation, independent of various risk factors, including loneliness and depression (i.e., full adaptation), is associated with a 1.26-fold increase in dementia (95% CI, 1.15–1.37). However, the fully regulated risk ratio for loneliness-related dementia was 1.04 (95% CI, 0.94–1.16); and 75% of these approaches were associated with depressive symptoms. Structural MRI data were obtained from 32,263 participants (mean age 63.5 years). [SD 7.5]). In socially isolated individuals, GMV was lower in temporal, frontal, and other (e.g., hippocampal) areas. Intermediate analysis showed that the identified GMV partially revealed the relationship between initial and subsequent cognitive function. Low GMVs due to social isolation were associated with reduced gene expression in Alzheimer’s disease and genes involved in mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative phosphorylation.


Social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, independent of loneliness and many other covariances. Structural differences in the brain associated with social isolation, along with various molecular functions, support the link between social isolation and cognition and dementia. Thus, social isolation may be the first indicator of the risk of mental retardation.

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