Loneliness and Cognitive Function in Older Adults Without Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Karra D. Harrington, Shradha Vasan, Jee Eun Kang, Martin J. Sliwinski, Michelle H. Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Loneliness has been highlighted as a risk factor for dementia. However, the nature of the relationship between loneliness and cognitive function prior to onset of dementia is unclear. Objective: The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine the relationship between loneliness and cognitive function in samples screened for dementia at study commencement. Methods: Five electronic databases (PubMed, PsycNET, Web of Science, EBSCOhost, Scopus) were searched from inception to August 31, 2021. A narrative review and random-effects meta-analysis were conducted on studies meeting search criteria. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42020155539. Results: The sixteen studies that met inclusion criteria involved 30,267 individuals, with mean age ranging from 63.0 to 84.9 years. Studies varied in dementia screening criteria, measurement of loneliness and cognitive function, and statistical modeling approach. The narrative review indicated that loneliness was associated with poorer global cognition, episodic memory, working memory, visuospatial function, processing speed, and semantic verbal fluency. Results of the meta-analysis indicated that loneliness was negatively associated with global cognitive function (overall r = -0.08; 95% CI = -0.14, -0.02; n = 6). Due to lack of sufficient data and heterogeneity between studies, we were unable to explore associations with other cognitive domains or longitudinal associations. Conclusion: Loneliness is associated with subtle impairment across multiple cognitive domains in older adults who were screened for dementia. Better characterization of this relationship will provide important information about how loneliness contributes to the clinical and pathological sequalae of AD and be informative for risk reduction and early detection strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1243-1259
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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