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Being socially active can protect against dementia

CLAHRC researcher Professor Gill Livingston among authors of research highlighting benefits of social contact

Regular contact with a friend at an older age can stave off dementia

New research published in PLOS One has shown the health benefits of being “socially active”. Using data from the WHITEHALL II study, Professor Livingston was among the authors of the paper highlighting the link between being socially active in your 50s and 60s and a lower risk of illness in later life.

WHITEHALL II tracked more than 10,000 people between 1985 to 2013, with those taking part surveyed every five years on the frequency of their social contact with friends and relatives. Participants underwent various cognitive tests, and their health records were monitored for a diagnosis of dementia.

Results showed that seeing friends almost daily at age 60 was associated with a 12% lower likelihood of developing dementia in later life, compared with those who saw only one or two friends every few months. By comparison seeing relatives did not show the same benefit.

The new evidence will be vital as part of the effort to identify lifestyle factors that affect the risk of developing dementia so that prevention efforts can be appropriately targeted.


Dr Kalpa Kharicha, Head of Innovation, Policy and Research at the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “We welcome these findings that show the benefits of frequent social contact in late/middle age on dementia risk. As we found in our Be More Us Campaign, almost half of UK adults say that their busy lives stop them from connecting with other people. It’s important we make changes to our daily lives to ensure we take the time to connect with others. We need more awareness of the benefits that social wellbeing and connectedness can have to tackle social isolation, loneliness and reduce dementia risk.”

Fiona Carragher, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There are many factors to consider before we can confirm for definite whether social isolation is a risk factor or an early sign of the condition – but this study is a step in the right direction. We are proud of supporting work which helps us understand the condition better – it is only through research that we can understand true causes of dementia and how best to prevent it.”

There has been extensive media coverage for this new research

Read the paper below

Sommerlad A, Sabia S, Singh-Manoux A, Lewis G, Livingston G (2019)

Association of social contact with dementia and cognition: 28-year follow-up of the Whitehall II cohort study.

PLoS Med 16(8): e1002862. journal.pmed.1002862


Success for Professor Deborah Swinglehurst

Professor Deborah Swinglehurst is supported by CLAHRC North Thames to investigate polypharmacy – a patient taking two or more medications – which can often mean drugs are prescribed that are not or no longer needed.

Professor Swinglehurst’s research investigates how professionals and patients organise polypharmacy, in particular, the use of multi-compartment compliance aids (MCAs or ‘dosette boxes’), and the contested evidence around their effectiveness or appropriateness for many patients.

Professor Swinglehurst, a practising GP, had her work recognised at the recent Society for Primary Care’s (SAPC) Annual Scientific Meeting in Exeter. Professor Swinglehurst, working out of Queen Mary University London, was awarded the Senior Prize for presenting her work at the meeting, which awards her a distinguished presentation slot at the NAPCRG (North America Primary Care Research Group) conference in Toronto this November.

Read Professor Swinglehursts’s abstract, entitled Organising polypharmacy: unpacking medicines, unpacking meanings

NEON short film highlights improved nutrition and feeding practices among East London’s Bangladeshi children

NEON (Nurture Early for Optimal Nutrition) is a participatory female health volunteer-led intervention to promote healthy nutrition in children of Bangladeshi origin in East London, who have a  higher risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease in later life than the average child in the UK.

Childhood nutrition can impact adult health status and the likelihood of chronic diseases such as diabetes as well as oral health complications – making it important to act early to prevent long term problems.

NEON used a proven model from South Asia where the introduction of female health workers into local women’s groups has significantly improved maternal and neonatal survival rates.

A new short film highlights the impact of the NEON approach in local communities, and the improvements it has made to nutrition and feeding practices.

Podcast features CLAHRC evidence on extended thrombectomy treatment times to improve stroke care

CLAHRC researcher Dr Elena Pizzo is featured in a new podcast hosted by the International Journal of Stroke.

Dr Pizzo (below) a health economist discusses her work to improve the treatment of stroke patients in the crucial first 24 hours after the condition strikes with Managing Editor of the Journal Carmen Lahiff-Jenkin

Ischaemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, occurring when a blood clot blocks an artery cutting blood flow to part of the brain. Stroke can lead to coma, severe disability and eventually death if not treated promptly. The podcast is based on a paper Dr Pizzo published earlier this year which demonstrated the benefit of mechanical thrombectomy performed between 6 and 24 hours in acute ischemic stroke.

Mechanical clot retrieval (thrombectomy) is an intervention to remove clots when the current medical treatment (thrombolysis) is not sufficient to dissolve them.

Current economic evidence supports the intervention only within 6 hours, but the published research showed that extended thrombectomy treatment times, of up to 24 hours, may result in better long-term outcomes for a larger cohort of patients.

In the podcast, Elena presents the results of the paper and discusses the implementation of its findings in the UK

Pizzo, E., Dumba, M., & Lobotesis, K. (2019).
Cost-utility analysis of mechanical thrombectomy between 6 and 24 hours in acute ischemic stroke.
International Journal of Stroke

New research and short film highlights benefits to patient care of mobile APP

New CLAHRC research shows the impact of the “Streams-AKI” app

Detection of one of the biggest killers in the NHS – Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) –  has been cut from hours to minutes thanks to the introduction of a new mobile app.

Working in partnership with Deepmind and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, CLAHRC researchers based at UCL evaluated the impact of the digital intervention-  an App called Streams – and the clinical pathway it underpins – on safety and clinical outcomes for inpatients at risk of AKI.

The STREAMs app sends an instant alert to NHS staff if a patients test results show they are is at risk of Acute Kidney Injury

AKI is a sudden episode of kidney failure or kidney damage defined by changes in urine output or serum creatinine – a waste product filtered by our kidneys. AKI can affect other organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs. It is common in hospital inpatients, in intensive care units, and especially older adults. AKI is estimated to cause 40,000 deaths and cost the NHS over £1 billion every year.

We compared results between the hospital site using the app versus another site not using the app. The evaluation of Streams highlighted a significant improvement in the reliability of recognition, time to treatment and reduced costs.

A short film summarises the results of our evaluation which took place from May 2017 across the Trust.

Mary Emerson, lead nurse specialist for the patient at risk and resuscitation team, with patient Edgar Ferrante.

The short film accompanies three papers published today (July 31st)

The research generated a great deal of media coverage which included an appearance on BBC Breakfast by CLAHRC Director Professor Rosalind Raine

..and a news item on the BBC website

Read the papers below

Connell A, Raine R, Martin P, Barbosa EC, Morris S, Nightingale C, Sadeghi-Alavijeh O, King D, Karthikesalingam A, Hughes C, Back T, Ayoub K, Suleyman M, Jones G, Cross J, Stanley S, Emerson M, Merrick C, Rees G, Montgomery H, Laing C
Implementation of a Digitally Enabled Intervention to Detect and Treat Acute Kidney Injury Arising in Hospitalized Patients: Evaluation of Impact on Clinical Outcomes and Associated Health Care Costs
J Med Internet Res 2019;21(7):e13147

Connell A, Black G, Montgomery H, Martin P, Nightingale C, King D, Karthikesalingam A, Hughes C, Back T, Ayoub K, Suleyman M, Jones G, Cross J, Stanley S, Emerson M, Merrick C, Rees G, Laing C, Raine R
A Qualitative Evaluation of User Experiences of a Digitally Enabled Care Pathway in Secondary Care
J Med Internet Res 2019;21(7):e13143

Alistair Connell  Hugh Montgomery, Peter Martin Claire Nightingale Omid Sadeghi-Alavijeh, Dominic KingAlan Karthikesalingam, Cian Hughes, Trevor Back, Kareem Ayoub, Mustafa Suleyman, Gareth Jones, Jennifer Cross,
Sarah Stanley, Mary Emerson, Charles Merrick, Geraint Rees, Chris Laing and Rosalind Raine
Evaluation of a digitally-enabled care pathway for acute kidney injury management in hospital emergency admissions
npj Digital Medicine (2019) 2:67