Can loneliness trigger dementia?

Jancis

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Jun 30, 2010
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http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/timesappeal/article3614708.ece

Quote from The Times: "Loneliness is not something that the Government can cure, but it is concerned at the effect it is having on health and has started to measure where the problem is most acute so that services can be better targeted. Loneliness is so bad for your health; it is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, with increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and dementia."

My comment: When we are seeking 'cures' for dementia it's worth considering the desolation that some people feel when they lose their loved ones and are utterly alone - it surely must be like living in the wilderness. My uncle was one of those vulnerable souls. Would he have succombed to dementia had he been able to cope better with bereavement and not been so totally alone and isolated?
 

jenniferpa

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Jun 27, 2006
39,448
I think there are degrees with this sort of thing. Does despair or loneliness make a real difference in peoples lives? Well yes, of course, and it may well affect their health. Do I think that such loneliness would make a person forget how to dress themselves or forget where they live or forget their families and so on and so on? Well no, I don't. So I wouldn't say it would cause dementia, but may well exacerbate it in terms of the person's ability to manage it.
 

Jancis

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Jun 30, 2010
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I think there are degrees with this sort of thing. Does despair or loneliness make a real difference in peoples lives? Well yes, of course, and it may well affect their health. Do I think that such loneliness would make a person forget how to dress themselves or forget where they live or forget their families and so on and so on? Well no, I don't. So I wouldn't say it would cause dementia, but may well exacerbate it in terms of the person's ability to manage it.
Severe depression can cause people to become extremely forgetful apparently.
 

jenniferpa

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Jun 27, 2006
39,448
There's a big difference between "extremely forgetful" and suffering from dementia wouldn't you say?
 

Jancis

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Jun 30, 2010
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That is just one symptom of course. I'm not an expert, I have to rely on my own research and information I gather to form ideas and opinions. There are so many articles on the subject of the tragic effects of severe depression and related mental breakdown, particularly related to older people who are alone who simply "lose the will" so to speak.
 

JPG1

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Jul 16, 2008
3,396
Thank you for a great post, Jancis

Jancis, that is one heck of a powerful article and your comment is equally powerful.

“When she died, his world caved in. He felt totally alone.”

“ .... five million older people who say TV is their main companion, or the 600,000 who leave the house less than once a week.”

Isolation won’t necessarily make someone forget how to dress themselves or forget where they live. That’s stating the obvious. But as sure as day follows night, it may make some people not give a toss as to whether they bother to dress themselves, or even to care about where they live, and may also make them “let it go”. That’s how I read Roy Hardacre’s thoughts in the article in The Times.

So, yes, Jancis, I do think that if that kind of reality can affect someone’s health, it must also be fair to say it will affect not only their physical health, but also their mental health.

Which comes first? Dementia? Or a decline in physical and mental health caused, perhaps, by bereavement, loneliness, isolation and the realisation that your world has caved in?

We are a long way off from finding a cure for dementia, according to the funding-request leaflet from the Alz Soc that arrived with Private Eye today in my post. (Strange bed-fellows, maybe, but that’s nowt to do with me. The Alz Soc and Private Eye just shared an envelope!) Surely it must be right to seek ways of preventing the loneliness and isolation that is guaranteed to contribute to decline, so may also contribute to the arrival of dementia.

Good to read that the WRVS is still doing what it always does best.

Thanks, Jancis, for posting this. The WRVS will be one Christmas Charity Appeal that receives my support.
 

JPG1

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Jul 16, 2008
3,396
Jancis, in your research you may have come by this already :

Loneliness measure to boost care for older people

"For the first time local authorities will identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness to allow them to tackle the growing problem of social isolation and its harmful effects, announced Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

By mapping areas where loneliness is high, better care can be targeted at those who need it most – including older people.

Research clearly shows us that loneliness can affect health – it increases the risk of heart disease, puts people at greater risk of blood clots and dementia, and makes them more likely to exercise less and drink more. Socially isolated and lonely adults are also more likely to undergo early admission into residential or nursing care."

(My highlighting above.)

Jeremy Hunt is quoted again.


http://mediacentre.dh.gov.uk/2012/11/22/loneliness-measure-to-boost-care-for-older-people/

it was in many news reports a few days ago, with many of our important friends supporting the initiative.
 

hollycat

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Nov 20, 2011
1,350
Honest answer is probably, who knows ?

However, IMHO, loneliness and the loss of a loved one must have such a dramatic effect on "one" that who knows what it may cause health wise ?

The scientists of the world have proved/solved SO MUCH, yet the human brain appears to remain the most complicated problem for them to solve.

A really heavy and leading question; do I want scientist's to solve the human brain..................and to be really honest.........I am not sure
 

Jancis

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Jun 30, 2010
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Hampshire
Honest answer is probably, who knows ?

However, IMHO, loneliness and the loss of a loved one must have such a dramatic effect on "one" that who knows what it may cause health wise ?

The scientists of the world have proved/solved SO MUCH, yet the human brain appears to remain the most complicated problem for them to solve.

A really heavy and leading question; do I want scientist's to solve the human brain..................and to be really honest.........I am not sure
I think I agree with you Hollycat. Even if the brain's mysteries are one day unravelled, will that reveal the secrets of spirit of self? When the spirit is broken then perhaps it's like the immune system failing? Dementia, after all is a set of symptoms that can occur at any time in life. The real defining characteristic of recognised forms of dementia - Alzheimer's and Lewy Bodies and Picks for example, is that they are incurable. But in some cases - where acute loneliness and depression is experienced if the spirit of self dies perhaps (in some cases) the illness leads to inevitable death of the brain (human body).
 

maryw

Registered User
Nov 16, 2008
3,805
Surrey
Hello Jancis, I find this thread very interesting. I have often wondered how much of an effect the long, dark days of my mother's battle with sight loss had on her mental health and, in turn, yes, the immune system. It really does make you wonder how much any disease is a result of physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental imbalances. They must all surely have an effect...
 

beech mount

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Sep 1, 2008
1,524
Manchester
Sorry but i can not see it myself, take early onset az, the majority of people suffering with this would appear to have been happy before diagnosis (Married, kids etc) and it comes out of the blue, from where? Sorry, the blame must be placed elsewhere.
John.
 

jenniferpa

Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
39,448
I suppose my take on this comes from believing firmly that dementia is an organic illness of the brain, rather than mental health issue. So to me the concept that depression could cause true dementia is as fallacious as saying that depression could cause type 1 diabetes. Now I wouldn't be stunned if at some point in the future it was discovered that the lack of chemicals that can cause clinical depression could be caused by something that also cause, for example, brain plaques to form, but I do feel that all you would be seeing there is a person who was predisposed to depression was also predisposed to have dementia: not that one caused the other but that there might be an overall cause of both.

I have to say, I think it is extremely unlikely though, and clearly not borne out by current evidence.
 

Jancis

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Jun 30, 2010
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66
Hampshire
I suppose my take on this comes from believing firmly that dementia is an organic illness of the brain, rather than mental health issue. So to me the concept that depression could cause true dementia is as fallacious as saying that depression could cause type 1 diabetes.
What do you mean by "true dementia" Jennifer?

I'm suggesting that in some people, extreme life traumas and social isolation could trigger mental ill health (severe depression) which results in dementia symptoms. I'm not talking about the kind of depression that is caused by lack of chemicals to the brain.

I think dementia is a psychological health issue as well as neurological health issue.

Clinical depression symptoms usually improve with psychological counselling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two. But not everyone, particularly the elderly are able/willing to access these treatments.

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/health-wellbeing/conditions-illnesses/depression/?gclid=CMf0s-js-7MCFUfJtAodOD0Asg
 

JPG1

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Jul 16, 2008
3,396
maryw, thanks for finding those two links. I've found the BBC report that was so well praised in your NHS choices link.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10507074

"Professor Clive Ballard of the Alzheimer's Society agreed that more research was now needed to establish why the link exists.

"It is well known depression is common in early stages of dementia. What this study demonstrates is that depression at a younger age is probably a significant risk factor for dementia," he said."


The longitudinal study was well based.
 

stanleypj

Registered User
Dec 8, 2011
10,707
North West
I suppose my take on this comes from believing firmly that dementia is an organic illness of the brain, rather than mental health issue. So to me the concept that depression could cause true dementia is as fallacious as saying that depression could cause type 1 diabetes. Now I wouldn't be stunned if at some point in the future it was discovered that the lack of chemicals that can cause clinical depression could be caused by something that also cause, for example, brain plaques to form, but I do feel that all you would be seeing there is a person who was predisposed to depression was also predisposed to have dementia: not that one caused the other but that there might be an overall cause of both.

I have to say, I think it is extremely unlikely though, and clearly not borne out by current evidence.
I would think I'm not the only person who would question the validity of such a clear distinction between 'organic illness of the brain' and 'mental health issue'. Surely one can impact on the other?
 

Jancis

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Jun 30, 2010
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Hampshire
Thank you JPG1 for the info and links on #7 and #17. I am constantly amazed how you and other TP members are so helpful and skilled at finding valuable resources to help us navigate the labyrinths of dementia related illnesses. It also helps construct discussion and debate - and for some inexplicable reason this helps me sleep at night. :)