Posted on Jul 02, 2019, 11 p.m.
Having and maintaining an active social life is linked to promoting happiness, mainly because humans are naturally social beings. According to a new study staying social late in life may be important to avoiding the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly among those at the greatest risk.
As published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry low levels of social engagement among elderly people combined with high levels of the key brain protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease has been found to be linked to a steep cognitive decline over the course of 3 years.
“Social engagement and cognitive function are related to one another and appear to decline together,” explains senior author Nancy Donovan, MD, in a release. “This means that social engagement may be an important marker of resilience or vulnerability in older adults at risk of cognitive impairment.”
This study involved 217 subjects between the ages of 63-89 who were all cognitively normal but some exhibited high levels of amyloid protein. The team assessed each participant’s cognitive performance at the start of the study then again 4 years later, and levels of social engagement were measured using standard examinations and questionnaires about activities such as spending time with friends and participating in volunteer work.
Staying social during elderly years is indicated to be especially important for those showing signs of developing Alzheimer’s disease; among those with higher levels of amyloid those with low social activity were found to exhibit much greater cognitive decline than those who regularly left their homes and saw other people. According to the researchers, those with low levels of amyloid protein didn’t show the same link between social activity and cognitive deterioration.
More intricate forms of social behavior such as online communications or social media were not accounted for, the team would like to conduct a more comprehensive study covering a longer period of time. “We want to understand the breadth of this issue in older people and how to intervene to protect high-risk individuals and preserve their health and well-being,” Donovan says.
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