You May Lower your Risk for Dementia if you are Socially Active at Age 60

NIA

A study published August 2, 2019 in PLOS Medicine found that people who are socially active at age 60 have a lower risk for dementia. The study was carried out by researchers from the University College London (UCL)

The Whitehall II Longitudinal Prospective Cohort Study

The Whitehall II Longitudinal Prospective Cohort study included 10,228 participants who were employees of London civil service departments. At the beginning of the study in 1985-88 the participants were aged 35-55. They were followed for 28 years until 2017.

The Study Involved Answering 4 Questions from the Berkman-Syme Social Network Index

Six different times the participants had to answer 4 questions from the Berkman-Syme Social Network Index. The 4 questions were:

  1. Do you have any friends or acquaintances you visit or who visit you? (Not necessarily the same person each time)
  2. How many friends or acquaintances do you see once a month or more?
  3. Are there any relatives outside your household whom you regularly visit or who visit you? (Not necessarily the same person each time)
  4. How many relatives do you see once a month or more?

Results of the Study

According to the lead author, Dr. Andrew Sommerlad at UCL, the results of this study showed that one in three cases of dementia are potentially preventable.

The results of the study gave strong evidence that people who had almost daily contact with friends at age 60 had a 12% lower risk for developing dementia than people who socialized with friends once every few months.

Reducing isolation and loneliness may lower the risk for dementia. Thus, socialization with friends may have a protective role against dementia. The researchers found that socialization with friends, rather than family, was associated with a lower risk for dementia.

How Socialization may Lower the Risk for Dementia

According to Professor Gill Livingston, socializing with friends uses cognitive skills such as memory and language. This may help by building up a reserve that will help them cope better with aging. Getting out and having a good time with friends may be good for mental wellbeing and being more physically active.

Is Social Isolation a Risk Factor for Dementia or an Early Sign of Dementia?

Fiona Carragher, the Chief Policy and Research Officer at the Alzheimer’s Society UK welcomes the research, but added that there still is not enough evidence to show if social isolation is a risk factor for developing dementia or rather an early sign of dementia. Some studies suggest  that withdrawing from friends and family is one of the early signs of dementia.

More Research is Needed

More research is needed to confirm if preventing social isolation can be used as an intervention to prevent the development of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the Most Commonly Found Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most commonly found dementia in the United States and worldwide. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), more than 5.7 million Americans, mainly seniors, suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which is a progressive incurable disease. Alzheimer’s leads to dementia and causes severe memory loss and cognitive decline, psychiatric and behavior disorders, sleep disruptions, agitation, hallucinations and in its final stages a total inability to carry out even the simplest day-to-day tasks. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, although according to the NIA it may really be the third leading cause of death because many cases go unreported.

Memory Care for People with Dementia

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers skilled memory care for people with dementia. Van Duyn also has a fantastic array of recreational therapeutic activities that lead to great socialization. Your loved one will have a chance to make new friends and enjoy life. Read more about recreational activities at Van Duyn in our blog post from July 11, 2018.

Conclusion

It pays to get out and enjoy life with friends, especially as this may prevent dementia.

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