COVID-19, loneliness, social isolation and risk of dementia in older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the relevant literature

Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2022 Jun;26(2):196-207. doi: 10.1080/13651501.2021.1959616. Epub 2021 Aug 7.


Objectives: During the COVID-19 lockdown, social isolation and feelings of loneliness (SIFL) in the older population have increased, and they can be a risk of dementia, especially in vulnerable older people. The current research is a systematic review meta-analysis of the studies that approach the risk of dementia in older people with SIFL.

Methods: The ten studies selected for meta-analysis utilised an opportunistic sample of older people in the community from age 50 to above with no dementia and enrolment. The populations consisted of cohorts of an average of 8,239 people, followed for a mean period of 6.41 years. Random effect meta-analysis summarised the Cox Proportional Hazard Ratios and Relative Risks of the individual studies.

Results: Results of the meta-analysis show that in older people, the risk of developing dementia because of the impact of prolonged loneliness and social isolation is about 49 to 60% [HR/HR = 1.49; CI95=1.37-1.61] higher than in those who are not lonely and socially isolated.

Conclusion: The biopsychosocial model of dementia supports the need for more integrated social programs and reduced risks for the older persons who, during the COVID-19 lockdown, have suffered from deprivation of support from primary carers and restricted social interactions.KeypointsDuring the COVID-19 lockdown, social isolation and feelings of loneliness in the general population have increased.Older persons are more vulnerable to social isolation and feelings of loneliness (SIFL).SIFL in older people has been associated with an increased risk of dementia.The current study's findings suggest the need to improve healthcare policies to reduce the impact of SIFL in older persons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; dementia; loneliness; meta-analysis; risk; social isolation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Social Isolation