Low social involvement is associated with cognitive decline and dementia

Does lack of social engagement lead to insanity?

Social relationships are essential for healthy aging. The researchers found a link between lack of social engagement, increased risk of cognitive decline, and development of dementia.

The survey conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital revealed that lack of social engagement was associated with an increased risk of dementia. The results of the study were published in the English-language newspaper "American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry".

Volunteer work and general social engagement seem to protect against the onset of Alzheimer's disease. (Image: Photographer.eu/fotolia.com)

Link between social commitment and risk of dementia

The study found that older people with little involvement in society had a higher concentration of amyloid-β in the brain and greater cognitive decline. Social engagement and cognitive function are related and seem to decrease together. This means that social engagement can be an important factor in preventing dementia in the elderly.

217 people were examined for the study

The researchers interviewed 217 men and women who participated in the Harvard Aging Brain Study, which aimed to detect early neurobiological and clinical signs of Alzheimer's disease. Participants aged 63 to 89 had no cognitive abnormalities, but some had high levels of β-amyloid protein in the brain. These proteins are considered a pathological feature of Alzheimer's disease. With the help of questionnaires and research, the researchers sought to identify the social involvement of the participants (including activities such as spending time with friends and family or volunteering). In addition, cognitive performance was assessed initially and three years later.

The level of beta-amyloid plays an important role

The study found that people with high levels of beta-amyloid had greater cognitive decline if their social engagement was lower than that of the more engaged group. This association has not been observed in patients with low beta-amyloid levels.

Additional research is needed

The researchers used a standard measure of social engagement that did not reflect, for example, the effects of digital communication or the qualitative aspects of relationships. According to the authors, a more up-to-date and comprehensive assessment of social engagement could be important for future clinical trials on Alzheimer's disease. Subsequent studies with follow-up periods of more than three years may detect cognitive decline over time and help to better understand the complex mechanisms involved in the progression of Alzheimer's disease. (As)


  • Kelsey D. Biddle, Federico of Oleire Uquillas, Heidi I.L. Jacobs, Benjamin Zide, Dylan R. Kirn et al .: Social commitment and cognitive decline related to beta-amyloid in cognitively older adults, in American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (Survey: 30-06-2019), American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry