Summary: Feeling lonely for long periods was associated with faster memory decline in people aged over 65.
Source: University of Michigan
Prolonged loneliness in adults over 65 may be a significant risk factor for accelerated memory aging, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
“We found that feeling lonely for a longer duration was associated with faster memory decline, suggesting that it’s never too late in life to reduce feelings of loneliness to promote aging. healthy,” said Lindsay Kobayashi, assistant professor of epidemiology. and lead author of the study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and dementia: the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Kobayashi and colleagues analyzed interview data from more than 9,000 adults over 50 from the US Health and Retirement Study from 1996 to 2016. They assessed participants’ cumulative times of loneliness from 1996 to 2004 compared to changes in memory function over the following 12 years. from 2004 to 2016.
Xuexin Yu, a doctoral student in epidemiology and lead author of the study, said the association between loneliness and aging memory was strongest in people aged 65 and over, with women experiencing a decline in memory stronger and faster than men.
“Women tend to have broader social networks than men, which may make them less likely to feel lonely than men, but more vulnerable once they experience long-term loneliness,” Yu said. “Social stigma and reluctance to admit loneliness may also be a factor in this observed gender-specific association.”
Loneliness and objective social isolation are important factors in the health of older adults, and researchers say that reducing loneliness in middle to late life may help maintain memory function longer.
In addition to Yu and Kobayashi, Ashly Westrick, a postdoctoral fellow at UM’s Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, is a co-author on the study.
About this research on aging and loneliness
Author: Press office
Source: University of Michigan
Contact: Press Office – University of Michigan
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Original research: Free access.
“Cumulative loneliness and subsequent memory function and rate of decline among adults aged ≥50 years in the United States, 1996 to 2016” by Xuexin Yu et al. Alzheimer’s and dementia
Cumulative loneliness and subsequent memory function and rate of decline among adults aged ≥50 years in the United States, 1996 to 2016
The aim of the study was to investigate the association between the duration of loneliness and memory function over a 20-year period.
Data came from 9032 adults aged ≥50 years in the Health and Retirement Study. Loneliness status (yes versus no) was assessed every two years from 1996 to 2004 and its duration was categorized as never, 1 time point, 2 time points, and ≥ 3 time points. Episodic memory was assessed from 2004 to 2016 as a composite of immediate and delayed recall trials combined with proxy-reported memory. Mixed effects linear regression models were fitted.
Longer duration of loneliness was associated with lower memory scores (P < 0.001) and a faster rate of decline (P < 0.001). The association was stronger in adults aged ≥ 65 years than in those aged less than 65 years (three-way interaction P = 0.013) and was stronger in women than in men (three-way interaction P = 0.002).
Cumulative loneliness may be an important risk factor for accelerated memory aging, especially in women aged ≥65 years.
- Longer duration of loneliness was associated with accelerated memory aging.
- The association was stronger in women than in men and in older adults than younger ones.
- Reducing loneliness in middle and late life can help maintain memory function.