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Frequent social activity may prevent or delay cognitive decline in old age

April 04, 2016

At the start of the investigation, all participants were free of any signs of cognitive impairment. Over an average of five years, however, those who were more socially active showed reduced rates of cognitive decline. On average, those who had the highest levels of social activity (the 90th percentile) experienced only one quarter of the rate of cognitive decline experienced by the least socially active individuals.

Other variables that might have accounted for the increase in cognitive decline??such as age, physical exercise, and health??were all ruled out in the analysis. Why social activity plays a role in the development of cognitive problems is not clear. According to James, one possibility is that "social activity challenges older adults to participate in complex interpersonal exchanges, which could promote or main efficient neural networks in a case of 'use it or lose it.'"

Future research is needed to determine whether interventions aimed at increasing late-life social activity can play a part in delaying or preventing cognitive decline, James said.

Source: Rush University Medical Center