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Persistent Midlife Loneliness May Up Later Dementia, AD Risk

TUESDAY, April 6, 2021 -- Persistent loneliness in midlife is an independent risk factor for later dementia and Alzheimer disease, according to a study published in Alzheimer's & Dementia.

Samia C. Akhter-Khan, from Humboldt University of Berlin, and colleagues assessed loneliness in cognitively normal middle-aged adults participating in the Framingham Heart Study using one item from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale and then tracked future Alzheimer disease and dementia.

The researchers found that after adjusting for demographics, social network, physical health, and apolipoprotein E ε4, persistent loneliness was associated with a higher risk for dementia onset (hazard ratio, 1.91) compared with no loneliness. Transient loneliness was associated with a lower risk for dementia onset (hazard ratio, 0.34) compared with no loneliness. The investigators observed similar associations for Alzheimer disease risk and loneliness.

"Our findings are in line with evolutionary theories stating that loneliness could be both adaptive and maladaptive for humans, depending on its persistency," the authors write.

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