In a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found socializing with others is important for mental health and well-being, and it may help improve cognition, as well—especially for older adults.
They found that when adults between the ages of 70 and 90 reported more frequent, pleasant social interactions, they also had a better cognitive performance on that day and the following two.
The findings may have special relevance now due to social distancing mitigation measures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study is from Penn State. One author is Ruixue Zhaoyang.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to rise to almost 13 million by 2050.
Additionally, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have risen by 16% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without reliable drug therapies, it’s critical to find ways to help prevent these conditions before they reach the clinical stage.
In the study, the team used data collected by smartphones over 16 days on 312 older adults.
The participants were prompted five times throughout the day to report how many social interactions they’d had, who they interacted with, and whether it was a positive or negative experience.
Digital interactions like talking by phone or texting were counted as well as in-person ones.
The researchers found that when older adults interacted more frequently with people they were close to—especially their friends—they performed better on cognitive tests than those who interacted less frequently with close partners.
They also found that when older adults weren’t typically experiencing certain types of social contact, they performed better cognitively on days when they had the type of contact they’d been lacking.
For example, if a person usually didn’t have much contact with family, they experienced a boost in cognition on days they had more than usual contact with their family.
The team says while the study suggests that a lack of socializing can have negative effects on cognition, it also shows an opportunity for future interventions.
The findings suggest that the lack of positive social interactions in daily life could be a critical risk factor for a declining cognitive function later in life.
Older adults who are relatively more deprived in certain social interaction experiences could potentially benefit the most from interventions that help to ‘boost’ their usual levels of social interactions in daily life.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about money problems in older people may signal early dementia and findings of feeling dizzy when standing up may signal high dementia and stroke risks.
For more information about dementia and your health, please see recent studies about coffee may help fight common dementia and Parkinson’s disease and results showing that this heart problem may increase your dementia risk.
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