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o Explain to patients who ask that the link between loneliness and increased risk for dementia is unclear, but may be related to behavioral changes brought on by dementia, or by changes in brain function caused by reaction to social isolation.

CHICAGO, Feb. 5 -- Older men and women who are lonely are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's-type dementia as their peers with good social networks, researchers have found.

The elevated risk for dementia among the lonely was unrelated to medical causes for Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, suggesting that the social isolation may lead to dementia by another route, wrote Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., and colleagues at Rush University here and the University of Pennsylvania.

"The basis of the association of loneliness with Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline is uncertain," the investigators wrote in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. "One possibility is that loneliness is a consequence of dementia, perhaps as a behavioral reaction to diminished cognition or as a direct result of the pathology contributing to dementia."

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