For many years, researchers have been investigating the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. A team of researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School published their findings on the correlation between the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and loneliness in JAMA Psychiatry. The study involved 79 male and female older adults who had normal cognitive function. Sacramento Alzheimer’s home care professionals share the findings of the study.
Conditions such as Alzheimer’s occur when amyloid protein compounds accumulate, clump together, and tangle delicate neurons. Seniors with Alzheimer’s experience progressive cognitive impairment and dementia, as well as behavioral and physical changes. Dr. Nancy J. Donovan and associates were curious to learn the relationship between amyloid protein levels and perceived loneliness.
The research involved 36 men and 43 women who had an average age of 76. Of the 79 participants, 22 were known carriers of apolipoprotein E ɛ4 (APOEɛ4), which means these people were likely to develop high levels of amyloid proteins in their brains. Based on imaging studies, 25 volunteers were classified as being positive for the presence of amyloid proteins.
On a scale from 3 to 12, the participants were asked to rate their level of loneliness. The scientists noted the overall average score was 5.3. Taking age, anxiety levels, depression, gender, social life, socioeconomic status, and the presence of APOEɛ4 or the proteins, researchers concluded seniors who had amyloid proteins were more than seven times likely to express they were lonely. The degree of loneliness was also greater for seniors who had APOEɛ4 compared to participants who lacked the genetic marker.
Further research is warranted because the study was limited to seniors who had a high level of intelligence and educational background. The group was also not diverse in terms of race or socioeconomic status. All seniors were in good mental and physical health. However, Dr. Donovan believes the findings might help with early detection of Alzheimer’s and intervention research related to loneliness in seniors with the disease.
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