Dementia Risk Lowered By Support System

According to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, visiting elderly friends and family members can improve their health. In fact, elderly people with a strong support system appear to be less likely to develop dementia. On the other hand, elderly people who are surrounded by negativity can actually suffer from an increased risk of dementia.

The long-term study was performed by researchers at the University of East Anglia. They worked with scientists from three other schools in the United Kingdom. The researchers tracked six items from a health and lifestyle questionnaire in people aged 50 years and older. The study lasted 10 years and involved 10,055 individuals. All of the participants were dementia-free when the study began.

After gathering baseline information about the participants’ current levels of social support—both positive and negative—changes were measured every two years. During the course of the study, 3.4% of the participants developed a form of dementia. Researchers noted that a slight increase in positive social support reduced the risk of dementia by 17%, while negative social support increased the risk of dementia by 31%.

Positive social support involves a handful of quality connections, while negative social support can include relationships with others who are unreliable and fault-finding.

Dr. Mizanur Khondoker, the study’s co-author and a senior lecturer in medical statistics, pointed out that a rich network of close relationships reducing risk of cognitive decline is not a new concept. “However, a relationship or social connection that does not work well can be a source of intense interpersonal stress,” he stated.

Dementia is a debilitating brain condition. This study helps to explore the importance of relationships, especially in aging. However, additional research is needed to truly understand the possible links.

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