Having a healthy social life in your 50s and 60s could prevent onset of dementia

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A new study by University College London (UCL) has revealed that being more socially active in your 50s and 60s can lead to a lower risk of developing dementia later on in life.

Social life

Researchers used data from 10,228 participants of the Whitehall II study, who were asked on six occasions between 1985 and 2013 about their frequency of social contact with friends and family.

Participants completed cognitive tests administered five times between 1997 and 2016 and were followed through electronic health records until 2017 to ascertain dementia diagnosis.

They found that regular social contact with friends at the age of 60 was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. It also showed that someone aged 60 who saw friends almost daily was 12% less likely to develop dementia than someone who only saw friends every few months.

They also found strong links between social contact at ages 50 and 70 and subsequent dementia.

The researchers say that people who are socially engaged are exercising their cognitive skills such as memory and language, which can help to develop cognitive reserve. While it may not stop the brain changing, cognitive reserve can help people cope better with the effects of ageing and help delay symptoms of dementia.

If you or a loved-one are in yours 50s or 60s, or even 70s, then now is the time to start becoming more socially active. If you don’t have friends or family close by that you can socialise with, then it is time to be proactive. Try joining an exercise group or a coffee morning group in your area to meet new people. You could even try volunteering as a way of meeting new people and combatting potential social isolation. You can read about the benefits of volunteering here.

Having people to talk to on a regular basis is not only great for your mental wellbeing and mood, but it also gets you out of the house, into different surroundings and allows you to be physically active too.