Older people have poor cognition but better well-being, study finds

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New research tells us that being young or old affects not just our bodies but our minds in fascinating ways.

Scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine wanted to see how age impacts both mental well-being and brainpower.

What they found might surprise you: older adults generally feel better mentally but don’t perform as well on thinking tasks compared to younger adults.

How the Study Worked: Mood and Mind Tests

The researchers looked at two groups of healthy adults. One group was in their 20s, and the other was 60 and older.

The study used questionnaires to understand how people were feeling mentally, checking for things like stress, loneliness, and overall happiness.

Participants also had to do tasks that tested their thinking skills, such as attention and decision-making, while their brain activity was recorded.

Results: Age Brings Calm but Slower Thinking

The younger adults showed higher levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness than the older folks. However, when it came to completing tasks that needed quick thinking, the younger group outperformed the older adults.

The brain scans revealed something interesting. The older adults had more brain activity in areas typically used for daydreaming and thinking about the past or future.

This seemed to make it harder for them to focus on the tasks at hand. On the flip side, younger adults showed more activity in parts of the brain that help with quick thinking and decision-making.

What It Means: Lessons for Both Young and Old

This study shows us that as we age, we might get better at handling our emotions but could face challenges with tasks that require quick, focused thinking.

The researchers believe that younger people can learn from older adults about how to handle stress and emotional ups and downs, while older adults could benefit from strategies that help them focus better.

The team is now looking at ways to improve these skills across ages. Some ideas include mindfulness practices that help people focus on the here and now, and even brain stimulation techniques that might improve quick thinking abilities.

The research has the potential to develop new methods to help both younger and older people, ensuring that our brains stay as healthy as possible throughout our lives.

After all, mental well-being and sharp thinking are things we all could use, no matter our age.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about inflammation that may actually slow down cognitive decline in older people, and low vitamin D may speed up cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about common exercises that could protect against cognitive decline, and results showing that this MIND diet may protect your cognitive function, and prevent dementia.

The study was published in Psychology and Aging.

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