Being sociable can help keep your brain healthy, study finds

Being sociable by taking part in community based group activity can help keep your brain healthy in later life, research by the University of Southampton has found.

Being members of a political party, environmental group, neighbourhood watch, a voluntary service group or other community based groups is associated with better cognitive function at age 50.

The study has been published in the open access journal BMC Psychology and included 9,119 men and women from England, Scotland and Wales.

A person’s cognitive ability at age 11; their participation in civic activities at ages 33 and 50; frequent physical activity; higher educational qualification and female gender were all associated with better cognitive function at age 50. Having low socio-economic status as a child and reporting worse mental well-being in adulthood were both associated with worse cognitive function at age 50.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said in response:

'There is strong evidence that exercise can help keep our brains healthy throughout our lives, but there is less research into the impact of socialising. This large and interesting study suggests that being sociable, for example by joining a community group, can help keep our brains sharp in middle age. However, it did not examine whether socialising can actually affect our risk of developing dementia.

'What we do know is that socialising can reduce stress and feelings of isolation for people with affected by dementia, and that’s why Alzheimer’s Society’s activity groups, such as Singing for the Brain and Dementia Cafes can be a lifeline.

'Evidence shows that the best way to reduce your risk of memory problems is exercising frequently and eating a healthy, balanced diet and this study suggests that socialising and taking part in community activities could be added to that list.' 

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