Lonely adults twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, researchers find

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Social and emotional isolation in elderly people increase their risk of developing dementia by about 51%, according to new research.

The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease among 823 elderly people was about twice as great in subjects who reported a high degree of loneliness, said researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. They studied participants for four years.

Social isolation in old age includes being single, having few friends and participating in few activities with others, researchers said in their study report. They also note that it seems unlikely that dementia causes loneliness, because loneliness levels remained relatively stable even in subjects who developed dementia. The study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry.