Loneliness and cognition in older people: the Dublin Healthy Ageing study

Aging Ment Health. 2012;16(3):347-52. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2011.628977. Epub 2011 Nov 30.


Introduction: While several studies have found a link between impaired cognition and social isolation, few have examined the relationship between cognition and loneliness. Loneliness has been thought to increase the risk of development of Alzheimer's dementia.

Aim: The aims of this study were to explore the relationship between loneliness and cognition and to determine whether specific cognitive domains are associated with loneliness.

Design: Cross-sectional community-based study.

Participants: This study included 466 community-dwelling subjects with mean age 75.45 (SD 6.06) years, of which 208(44%) were males.

Results: Loneliness was significantly associated with impaired global cognition independent of social networks and depression. The domains of psychomotor processing speed and delayed visual memory were specifically associated with self-reported loneliness.

Conclusion: This cross-sectional study demonstrated an association between loneliness and specific aspects of cognition independent of depression, social networks and other demographics. The mechanism for this association is unclear and warrants further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Loneliness*
  • Male
  • Social Support