He says there are some very practical benefits to living with family or other household residents.
“There are usually regular mealtimes, there is conversation, people to check to see if you have taken your medications, and family members encouraging regular activity,” Professor Hennenberg says.
“That engagement, when it is positive, stimulates the production of oxytocin, often dubbed the happiness hormone, and that has been shown to have a positive effect on physiological wellbeing by protecting cardio-vascular systems associated with vascular dementia and may exert a beneficial slow-down on dementia development.”
Dr You says while the research does not show a causal link between the incidence of death from dementia and household size, it is clear living in large households is significantly protective against dementia mortality in terms of dementia initiation and deterioration of dementia patients.
“As part of dementia prevention, healthcare practitioners should encourage people to increase their positive interactions with people from their neighbourhood, community groups or other engagements, when a traditional large household or family-centred lifestyle is not possible,” he says.
Professor Hennenberg says if there is a take-home message from this research, it is that we have evolved to benefit from meaningful, daily, human connection.
“Without that human connection, we don’t thrive as we should,” he says.