Amid the isolation of COVID, Michigan Alzheimer’s deaths soar

In 2020, as COVID-19 tore through Michigan, deaths from Alzheimer’s jumped 18 percent from the previous six-year average, according to a Bridge Michigan analysis of state data. Similar rises were noted nationally.  A growing body of research suggests a link between extended isolation and poorer outcomes for seniors, posing a health risk much like smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. State death data from 2020 would seem to lend credence to the theory. 

From 2014 to 2019, Michigan recorded an average of 4,100 Alzheimer’s related deaths each year. In 2020, it recorded 4,838, an 18 percent jump over the previous years. (Similar spikes were seen in deaths from strokes, aneurysms and diabetes among older residents.)

Emotional health is tied to chemical and physical changes that directly affect overall well-being, said Sheria Robinson-Lane, a gerontologist at the University of Michigan who specializes in, among other things, caregiving for people with dementia.

“You can’t take a pill for loneliness,” Robinson-Lane said.

Read more from Bridge Michigan