WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Social isolation among older adults is associated with higher dementia risk, according to a study published online Jan. 11 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Alison R. Huang, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues used data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study to examine the association between social isolation and incident dementia among 5,022 community-dwelling older U.S. adults. At baseline, participants were classified as socially isolated or not socially isolated using a composite measure of social isolation, while demographic and health factor data were collected via self-report.

The researchers found that 23.3 percent of participants were socially isolated. Compared with not being isolated, being socially isolated was associated with a higher risk for incident dementia over nine years, after adjusting for demographic and health factors (hazard ratio, 1.28). Results were found to be similar across racial and ethnic groups.

“Social connections are increasingly understood as a critical factor for the health of individuals as they age. Our study expands our understanding of the deleterious impact of social isolation on one’s risk for dementia over time,” study author Thomas K.M. Cudjoe, M.D., M.P.H., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a statement. “I hope this serves as a wakeup call for all of us to be more thoughtful of the role of social connections on our cognitive health.”

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