"Dementia Tied to Loneliness in the Elderly." This is the headline of a small article tucked away in the fourth section of the WSJ on Tuesday. An accessible description of the study is here.
I see something like this in my practice. I have a client who is profoundly depressed because of loneliness, although the psychiatrist does not think she is demented. But there is a pathology related to loneliness here, I believe, even if it is not dementia. I have another client who was slipping into dementia, but in respect to whom his friends rallied, and put him in a situation where he gets constant friendly and supportive attention. He seems to have stabilized.
But are we surprised? Loneliness is everywhere linked to a pathology of one sort or another. For example, it has been demonstrated that when little babies are not held for significant periods of time, they don't develop "normally". When wives aren't romanced by their husbands, they have difficulty. When husbands are not mothered by their wives, they have difficulty. When I was in college, the book de jur was The Lonely Crowd, by Riesman and others. What distinguishes Christianity from Islam, I think, is relationship. There is no relationship with Allah. He is absolutely transcendent. But with Christianity, despite God's transcendence, there is total intimacy available with with God through Jesus Christ.
We are meant to be in relationship. We struggle against that certainty and the world would prevent relationship in any event. We go nuts without it.