Friday, March 26, 2021

Persistent Loneliness at Midlife Linked to Late-life Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease

People aged 45 to 64 years who are persistently lonely have nearly twice the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life compared with their peers who do not experience persistent loneliness, a study in Alzheimer’s and Dementia suggests. However, transient loneliness was linked to lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who reported no loneliness.

“[M]idlife loneliness may be an independent, modifiable risk factor for dementia and [Alzheimer’s disease],” wrote Wendy Qiu, M.D., Ph.D., of Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed data from a subset of 2,880 adults in the Framingham Heart Study, an ongoing, nationwide study begun in 1948 to determine cardiovascular risk factors. Participants in this subset were 45 to 64 years old between 1998 and 2001 and had no cognitive problems. These participants received health exams every four years and completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) at least twice, approximately three years apart. Qiu and colleagues analyzed the participants’ responses to one item on the CES-D, “I felt lonely during the past week,” and defined loneliness as feeling lonely at least one to two days within the past week. They then separated the participants into subgroups as follows:

  • No loneliness, wherein participants did not report loneliness at either assessment
  • Transient loneliness, wherein participants reported loneliness at one assessment but not the next
  • Incident loneliness, wherein participants reported loneliness in the second of the two assessments but not the first
  • Persistent loneliness, wherein participants reported loneliness at both assessments

Participants who reported persistent loneliness had a 91% greater risk of developing dementia later in life compared with those who reported no loneliness. Those who reported transient loneliness had a 66% lower risk of developing dementia later in life compared with those who reported no loneliness. The results were similar for Alzheimer’s disease risk.

“Our results motivate further investigation of the factors that make individuals resilient against adverse life events and urge us to tailor interventions to the right person at the right time to avert persistency of loneliness, promote brain health, and prevent [Alzheimer’s disease],” Qiu and colleagues wrote.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Loneliness: A Modern Epidemic Psychiatric Is Poised to Address.”

((Image: iStock/DragonImages)

Help APA Fight for Improved Reimbursement: Take Insurance Survey

APA advocates on behalf of psychiatrists to increase reimbursements from health plans, legislators, and regulatory agencies. To ensure APA is well equipped to fight for improved payment for clinical services, we need to know more about the nature of your outpatient practice and experience in the health plan networks in which you participate.


Don't miss out! To learn about newly posted articles in Psychiatric News, please sign up here.


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.