Dementia is a condition that many fear as they age. Engaging in activity, eating a nutritious diet and keeping the brain active are all fantastic ways to reduce risk of developing the condition. However recent literature suggests that the influence of friends and family can also have a significant impact on an individual’s risk of developing the condition.
Social isolation is thought to influence mortality risk across all populations. Social engagement has a huge effect on health and quality of life. However when it comes to the risk of developing dementia, social isolation may not be as influential as once thought. Instead feelings of loneliness appear to show strong correlation with development of the condition according to a recent study (Holwerda et al, 2014).
The impact of community throughout life cannot be understated however it appears that as we age the relationships we develop may significantly influence our risk of developing long term conditions. When it comes to support I take a different viewpoint to the majority.
It seems that as one hits a certain age or after the diagnosis of a long term condition families and friends begin to rush to help with everyday tasks, in many cases reducing independence and creating a reliance on the help of others. It’s well documented that an individual requires a training stimulus in order to maintain capacity to complete everyday tasks and therefore the more help one receives the greater the reduction in their own ability. I’m of the opinion that one must only provide physical support when absolutely necessary, however emotional and social support are completely different.
Whilst it’s essential that one does not force their presence on friends and family as they age simply spending time with others is going to have drastic benefits to health, wellbeing and overall quality of life. According to the research, it may even negate one’s risk of developing dementia.
For individuals looking to offset their own risk it’d be advised to develop abundant and meaningful relationships, have plenty of friends, and try not to fall out with the siblings too often!
In that case I guess I’m going to have to stop being such an egotistical, grumpy so and so….
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Holwerda, T. J., Deeg, D. J., Beekman, A. T., van Tilburg, T. G., Stek, M. L., et al. (2014). Feelings of loneliness, but not social isolation, predict dementia onset: results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL). Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 85(2), 135-142.