"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Social interaction is linked to brain health in older people

July 13, 2023 – New research suggests that more social interaction may very well be good for older people’s brain health and help prevent dementia.

The study found a link between loneliness in older adults and lower brain volume, particularly in areas affected by dementia.

The study was conducted on nearly 9,000 people in Japan who didn’t have dementia. The average age was 73 years.

The results were published within the journal neurology.

“Lower frequency of social contact was associated with declines in overall regional brain volume and cognitive function,” the report said. “In addition, depressive symptoms partially explained the association in older people without dementia living in the community in Japan.”

The study doesn’t prove that social isolation causes brain shrinkage. However, the researchers say social engagement can have advantages for maintaining brain volume and stopping dementia.

News from Neuroscience highlighted three findings. First, reduced brain volume was present in the hippocampus and amygdala, the report said. Second, participants with the fewest social contacts had more white matter lesions, indicating brain damage. Third, “depression symptoms were found to partially explain the association between social isolation and brain volume, but accounted for only 15 to 29 percent of the association.”

The researchers also considered other aspects that may affect brain size, including smoking, physical activity and diabetes.

“Because the study only included older Japanese people, one limitation is that the results may not be generalizable to people of other ethnicities and younger people,” wrote Neuroscience News.