Older adults who face social isolation have a 28% increased risk of developing dementia than those who have frequent social interactions.

New research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society indicates that social isolation is common among older U.S. adults, and it increases their likelihood of developing dementia.

Among 5,022 participants of the National Health and Aging Trends Study, a longitudinal and nationally representative study of older adults in the United States, nearly one-quarter (1,172 participants, or 23.3%) were socially isolated.

After adjusting for demographic and health factors, being socially isolated (versus not socially isolated) was associated with a 28% higher risk of developing dementia over 9 years, regardless of race or ethnicity.

“Social connections are increasingly understood as a critical factor for the health of individuals as they age. Our study expands our understanding of the deleterious impact of social isolation on one’s risk for dementia over time,” said corresponding author Thomas K.M. Cudjoe, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“I hope this serves as a wakeup call for all of us to be more thoughtful of the role of social connections on our cognitive health.”