Natural health doesn’t always mean supplements. It can mean doing things that are quite natural, like conversations and laughter. Being social has always been considered good for the brain, but this new study goes a step further to find that it could help prevent or delay the cognitive decline that happens naturally as we age.
Researchers responsible for this interesting bit of health news carefully assessed the situation and came to the realization that being socially inactive can in and of itself trigger cognitive impairment.
The study comprised 1,138 older adults with an average age of 80, who were part of a long ongoing study about chronic conditions related to aging. They each underwent annual tests for medical and neurological health.
They were asked how often in the previous year they had engaged in activities that involve social interaction. It could be going out for dinner, attending sporting events, playing bingo, going on day or overnight trips, doing volunteer work, visiting relatives or friends, or participating in religious groups.
Cognitive function was assessed using a battery of 19 tests for various types of memory (episodic, semantic and working memory), as well as perceptual speed and “visuospatial” ability.
At the beginning, all participants were free of signs of cognitive impairment. But over the next five years, those who were more socially active showed reduced rates of cognitive decline. On average, those who had the highest levels of social activity experienced only one quarter of the rate of cognitive decline experienced by the least socially active individuals.
Why this is the case is not clear from a scientific standpoint. That is for future research to figure out in separating hypotheses from truths. For now, understand that staying social is not only an enjoyable time, but also important for your brain.