As we get older, it’s easy to isolate ourselves from social activities.
This is because we naturally become more introverted and struggle to leave the house due to poor mobility.
However, social isolation has been found to link lower brain volume in regions associated with cognition and higher dementia risk. Keep reading to find out more…
The study in question took place for over nearly 12 years before the COVID-19 pandemic and looked at data from a large group of people across the UK with an average age of 57.
Researchers wanted to explore the relationship between brain volume and social isolation, while still taking into account other factors such as age, sex and socioeconomic status. The group of individuals who were being studied were asked to fill out surveys about their social contact while the researchers also took brain scans and conducted thinking and memory tests on each person.
What did they find?
Upon completion of their study, researchers discovered that there was a correlation between people who were socially isolated and a lower brain volume in regions associated with learning and thinking.
The brain regions that they were studying are typically among the first to be affected by Alzheimer’s. It was this finding that allowed the researchers to discover that people who were socially isolated were 26% more likely to develop dementia compared to those who are not.
However, researchers also found that loneliness – which is the internal feeling of being isolated from others – is not linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.
What does this mean going forward?
This study is very interesting and contributes to the amazing and groundbreaking research that is constantly being carried out to understand more about dementia and how we can prevent it.
Although there can be many factors that contribute to dementia risk, this factor is particularly worrying due to the increased social isolation of people at an old age. We saw an increase during the COVID-19 pandemic which has now encouraged people to continue their habits of being cut off from their usual social networks.
It’s crucial for people of all ages to continue to be socially active due to the recent findings along with the possibility of lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system and reducing physical pain.
How do I stay social?
Here are five ways for you to stay socially active at any age…
- Find a hobby that you enjoy doing. This will help you meet new people who also like to do the things you do.
- Reach out to friends and invite them for tea. Even if you think they don’t want to visit you, it’s common that they will feel the same and will appreciate the invitation to spend time with you.
- Smile at others while you’re out and about to initiate conversation. If you’re unsure of what to say, asking them about themselves is a great way to start.
- Get involved in local community activities such as a singing or walking group, a book club, bridge, bingo, quiz nights or faith groups. These will vary according to where you live but the chances are that you’ll have access to at least one.
- Offer help to your neighbours who seem like they’re struggling with something that you have valuable knowledge or experience in. You’ll get lots back in return, such as new skills and confidence – and, hopefully, some new friends, too.
And remember here at the Me2U Centre we are on hand to support you with plenty of dementia-friendly activities that can help you and your loved ones stay socially active.