Social activities and computer use linked to a reduction in memory decline, study finds

Published 4 March 2016

Keeping the brain active with social activities and using a computer may help older adults reduce their risk of developing memory and thinking problems.

This is according to a study presented today (Thursday 3 March 2016) at the American Academy of Neurology's 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

The study involved 1,929 people, age 70 and older who all had normal memory and thinking abilities at the start of the study. Participants were asked how often they engaged in mentally stimulating activities such as computer use, reading, crafting and social activities and were followed for an average of four years to see whether they development any memory or thinking impairments.

People who reported using a computer once per week or more were 42% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who did not. Engaging weekly in social activities, craft activities such as knitting or reading magazines were also less likely to develop memory problems by 23%, 16% and 30%, respectively.

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society said:

'There is increasing evidence that staying mentally and socially active is an important way to keep our brains healthy as we age. This could include activities such as regularly doing puzzles, trying out arts and crafts or joining a book group. Although this research is only preliminary, it should be encouraging to today’s generation of silver surfers that using a computer might also help to keep memory sharp.

'Dementia, however, is a complex condition and we do not know what effect these activities have on the risk of developing it. Currently, the best evidence for reducing your risk of dementia is to exercise regularly, avoid smoking and eating a healthy, balanced diet.'

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