Dementia - What You Need to Know

More social contact means less dementia risk, study says

Older adults who are socially active may have a better chance at dodging dementia, according to a new report. 

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Researchers from University College London recently conducted a study, published in the PLOS Medicine journal, to determine the association between social contact and memory loss. 

To do so, they gathered data from the Whitehall II study, which investigated how economic and social conditions influence health. They examined 10,228 adults who were asked to record how often they interacted with their friends and relatives. The participants also completed cognitive tests to track their brain health. 

After analyzing the results, they found increased social contact at age 60 was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. In fact, they said those who saw friends almost daily were 12% less likely to get dementia, compared to those who only hung out with friends every few months. 

“People who are socially engaged are exercising cognitive skills such as memory and language, which may help them to develop cognitive reserve — while it may not stop their brains from changing, cognitive reserve could help people cope better with the effects of age and delay any symptoms of dementia,” senior author Gill Livingston said in a statement.

“Spending more time with friends could also be good for mental wellbeing, and may correlate with being physically active, both of which can also reduce the risk of developing dementia,” Livingston continued.

The scientists also found a similar link between lower risk of dementia and social contact at 50 and 70. The correlation did reach “statistical significance,” they wrote, but they believe social contact at any age could help stave off dementia.

Want to learn more about the findings? Take a look at the full assessment here

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