Loneliness has been linked to Alzheimer’s pathology and cognitive function among older adults, but little research has looked at loneliness as a dementia risk factor for younger people. In a study conducted at the Boston School of Medicine, being persistently lonely during midlife (ages 45-64) appears to make people more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) later in life. Although loneliness itself does not have the status of a clinical disease, it is associated with a range of negative health outcomes including sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, and stroke.
“Whereas persistent loneliness is a threat to brain health, psychological resilience following adverse life experiences may explain why transient loneliness is protective in the context of dementia onset,” explained corresponding author Wendy Qiu, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology & experimental therapeutics. In light of the current pandemic, these findings raise hope for people who may suffer from loneliness now, but could overcome this feeling after some time.
We have all had periods of loneliness in our lives, either when we went away to school, our children started school, or we lost a parent or grandparent. Loneliness is “normal”. However, as the study shows, the pandemic has had a negative effect on everyone and loneliness, although short-lived, can impact overall health. Remember, give those residents a hug, even a virtual one, smile, and share happiness with everyone you meet! You never know when someone may be feeling lonely but haven’t expressed it. Take the time to bring happiness to someone, and it will be time well spent!
Stay well, mask up, and stay tuned!