Having a healthy social life is often considered a good and perhaps even enviable trait. However, new research findings suggest that maintaining healthy social engagement levels is good for mental health, especially in older adults.
A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health conducted a study whose findings revealed that older individuals that regularly uphold social engagement have healthier brains. The researchers found that social engagement regularly helps maintain a robust brain microstructure, especially in grey matter areas associated with dementia.
In other words, older adults should consider cultivating a regular and strong social life as one of the ways to avoid dementia potentially. It can be compared to how regular exercise is recommended to avoid heart disease and diabetes. The study findings were published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.
“Our data were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, but I believe our findings are particularly important right now, since a one-size-fits-all social isolation of all older adults may place them at risk for conditions such as dementia,” stated Dr. Cynthia Felix, the lead author in the study.
A therapy that is free and easily accessible
Dr. Felix also stressed that it is important for older adults to understand the relevance of social engagement to the health of brains, especially during the pandemic. The good news is that social engagement does not have to be with many people. It can be with just one person such as a relative or a friend. Dr. Felix stated that the beauty of social engagement is that it does not cost money and there are no side effects. In other words, it is one of the most affordable and healthiest forms of therapy that older adults can gift to themselves and their peers.
Practicing healthy levels of social engagement is thus a good way of preventing dementia which does not have a cure. The researchers will continue to conduct more research on the subject in an attempt to expand on the existing dementia knowledge, with more in-depth studies on cause and effect.