Social groups ward off age–related mental decline

October 2, 2014, University of Queensland

Social groups ward off age–related mental decline
Credit: iStock
(Medical Xpress)—People aged over 50 are more agile mentally if they are socially active, a study has found – and the effect is even more pronounced in 80-year-olds.

Analysing data from more than 3000 , University of Queensland researchers found that people who took part in group had reduced and memory loss than those who did not.

The study, led by Professor Catherine Haslam from UQ's School of Psychology, compared the impact of different types of on cognitive health, using data collected by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing over a four-year period.

"We wanted to discover whether older people benefitted more from interactions that took place in the context of social group activities, compared to those who had interactions with just one person such as a spouse or a friend," Professor Haslam said.

The study recorded participants' engagement in a range of group and one-on-one social activities and their performance on standard tests of memory, fluency and orientation.

It showed that social group activities were more important than one-to-one relationships in slowing cognitive decline, and that the effect became more pronounced with increasing age.

"Fifty-year-olds with above-average ties performed mentally more like 46-year-olds," Professor Haslam said.

"The functional savings were much greater at the older end of the age spectrum, with 80-year-olds performing more like 70-year-olds."

Co-author Dr Tegan Cruwys, from UQ's School of Psychology, said the findings provided important information about the types of social relationships people should invest in to keep themselves mentally active and independent for longer.

"In this context, it is not any social relationship, but active engagement in social groups that makes the most difference," Dr Cruwys said.

"When we consider the overall costs for a yet-to-be-invented drug that could reduce an 80-year-old's cognitive age by a decade, it seems a prudent investment to encourage to stay active in social groups."

A paper on the research is published in Social Science and Medicine.

Explore further: Group bonding halts depression for all walks of life

More information: Catherine Haslam, Tegan Cruwys, S. Alexander Haslam, "'The we's have it': Evidence for the distinctive benefits of group engagement in enhancing cognitive health in aging," Social Science & Medicine, Volume 120, November 2014, Pages 57-66, ISSN 0277-9536, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.08.037.

Related Stories

Group bonding halts depression for all walks of life

August 25, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Becoming a part of a social group can significantly reduce the effects of depression, according to new research from The University of Queensland.

Social groups alleviate depression

March 19, 2014
Building a strong connection to a social group helps clinically depressed patients recover and helps prevent relapse, according to a new study.

Learning new skills keeps an aging mind sharp

October 21, 2013
Older adults are often encouraged to stay active and engaged to keep their minds sharp, that they have to "use it or lose it." But new research indicates that only certain activities—learning a mentally demanding skill ...

Study reveals how to be socially successful

July 25, 2014
Romantic, personal and professional relationships are fraught with danger, but a University of Queensland researcher has found the secret to interacting successfully with others in such settings.

Mobility explains the association between social activity and mortality risk in older people

November 29, 2013
Social activity and health correlate in old age, but less is known about what explains this association. The results of a study carried out in the Gerontology Research Center showed that part of the association between social ...

After-school exercise program enhances cognition in 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds

September 29, 2014
A nine-month-long, randomized controlled trial involving 221 prepubescent children found that those who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day after school saw substantial improvements ...

Recommended for you

Social media is affecting the way we view our bodies—and not in a good way

November 15, 2018
Young women who actively engage with social media images of friends who they think are more attractive than themselves report feeling worse about their own appearance afterward, a York University study shows.

Study finds mindfulness apps can improve mental health

November 15, 2018
A University of Otago study has found that using mindfulness meditation applications (apps) on phones is associated with improvements in people's mental health.

New research has revealed we are actually better at remembering names than faces

November 14, 2018
With the Christmas party season fast approaching, there will be plenty of opportunity to re-live the familiar, and excruciatingly-awkward, social situation of not being able to remember an acquaintance's name.

Older adults' abstract reasoning ability predicts depressive symptoms over time

November 14, 2018
Age-related declines in abstract reasoning ability predict increasing depressive symptoms in subsequent years, according to data from a longitudinal study of older adults in Scotland. The research is published in Psychological ...

The illusion of multitasking boosts performance

November 13, 2018
Our ability to do things well suffers when we try to complete several tasks at once, but a series of experiments suggests that merely believing that we're multitasking may boost our performance by making us more engaged in ...

Brain changes found in self-injuring teen girls

November 13, 2018
The brains of teenage girls who engage in serious forms of self-harm, including cutting, show features similar to those seen in adults with borderline personality disorder, a severe and hard-to-treat mental illness, a new ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.