Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, and Rosanne Freak-Poli, PhD,
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Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, received his Doctorate in Medicine and his sociological degree from the University of Bonn, Germany, and his PhD in Epidemiology from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He is Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam and was appointed Professor of Social and Behavioral Science and Sumner and Esther Feldberg Chair in Maternal and Child Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2018. His research is mostly aimed at understanding the etiology of common psychiatric problems such as depression. His work in adults and elderly persons a neurodegenerative, his work in children takes a neurodevelopmental approach. He has a great interest in detailed phenotype assessment, neuroimaging, and genetics combined with modern quantitative methods. His work on prenatal exposures is internationally well-known. He has received several prizes such as the VIDI (2009) and VICI (2017) award from the Dutch Medical Research Council and the Leon Eisenberg Award in 2019; he has published over 750 peer-reviewed articles.
Rosanne Freak-Poli, PhD is a life-course epidemiologist. Her work is strongly driven by social justice, being the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. After completing her Ph.D. (Epidemiology), Rosanne has been awarded an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship and a National Heart Foundation of Australia Postdoctoral Fellowship. She has made an internationally significant and impactful contribution to understanding the population impact of social determinants as risk factors for chronic disease. Most recently, Rosanne has demonstrated that social health is associated with a greater severity of chronic disease risk-factors and lower quality of life; increased risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia; and worse mental health during cardiovascular disease recovery. Furthermore, she has progressed the field by examining the social health components of social isolation, social support, and loneliness separately to assess their independent contribution to health and wellbeing.
Importance of Published Article
The Rotterdam Study (RS), a large population-based cohort with excellent follow-up of dementia, offers excellent opportunities to study behavioral and social determinants of dementia in. Recent studies suggested that loneliness or lack of social support may increase the risk of cognitive decline. However, studies that assess different social health factors, adjust for depression, and follow participants over many years to rule out reverse causality, are lacking. Importantly, we replicated results in the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care in Kungs (SNAC-K).
In “Loneliness, Not Social Support, Is Associated with Cognitive Decline and Dementia Across Two Longitudinal Population-Based Cohorts” (J Alzheimers Dis 85, 295-308, 2022), Freak-Poli R, Wagemaker N, Wang R, Lysen TS, Ikram MA, Vernooij MW, Dintica CS, Vernooij-Dassen M, Melis RJF, Laukka EJ, Fratiglioni L, Xu W, and Tiemeier H included 4,514 participants from the Rotterdam Study (mean age) followed up to 14 years and 2,112 participants from the SNAC-K (mean age 72) followed up to 10 years. We investigated loneliness, perceived social support, and structural social support (specifically marital status and number of children). In both cohorts, dementia was diagnosed, and cognitive function was repeatedly assessed with MMSE and a global cognitive factor (g-factor).
Loneliness was prospectively associated with a decline in the MMSE in both cohorts. Consistently, persons who were lonely had an increased risk of developing dementia independent of depressive symptoms. Exclusion of the first 5 years of follow-up did not alter results. Neither perceived or structural social support was associated with cognitive decline or dementia risk. Loneliness is a serious societal problem across all ages. Our findings highlight the importance of developing successful preventive measures for loneliness. Importantly, loneliness may be modified and reductions in loneliness may be possible through interventions focused on social network enhancement or modifying maladaptive social cognition.
This research project is part of the CoSTREAM consortium (www.costream.eu) and received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant no. 667375).