A history of being more socially active is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. People who participate in more social activities, have larger networks of friends and who feel less lonely have, on average, a lower risk of developing dementia.
What’s the evidence that social activity reduces dementia risk?
Research consistently shows that people who are more socially active have, on average, a lower risk of developing dementia.
Social connectedness has been measured in different ways:
- the number of social activities people do
- the size of people’s networks of friends
- how lonely people feel
In each case, the lowest risk of dementia has been found for those whose activities or feelings suggest the highest level of social involvement.
The research to date also suggests that social activities that involve mental stimulation and/or physical activity can provide even greater benefit.
Several observational studies have shown an association between lower dementia risk and higher levels of social interaction, mostly at late life.
It is possible that early cognitive problems as dementia is developing make people less sociable, but there is some evidence that this can’t completely account for the association and that remaining socially active is protective against dementia.
How does social activity reduce dementia risk?
Social activity is believed to contribute to brain reserve. Interacting with other people involves many brain functions and can be good brain exercise. As with other mentally stimulating activity, this helps to build up a reserve of healthy brain cells and connections between them. This reserve is believed to help protect you against dementia.
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