A new study shows an active social life appears to delay memory loss as we age.
The finding, which appears in The American Journal of Public Health, suggests that strong social ties, through friends, family and community groups, can preserve our brain health as we age and that social isolation may be an important risk factor for cognitive decline in the elderly.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health used data gathered from 1998 to 2004 from American adults aged 50 and older. Participants took memory tests at two-year intervals during the study period. The researchers also measured social integration based on marital status, volunteer activities, and contact with parents, children and neighbors.
The results showed that individuals who in their 50s and 60s engaged in a lot of social activity also had the slowest rate of memory decline. In fact, their rate of memory loss was less than half of those who were the least socially active. The working hypothesis is that social engagement is what makes us mentally engaged.