Maintaining positive, warm and trusting friendships may not only reduce loneliness, but also sharpen your memory and boost brain function, a study has found.
Super Agers – who are 80 years of age and older and have cognitive ability at least as good as people in their 50s or 60s – reported having more satisfying, high-quality relationships compared to their cognitively average, same-age peers, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“You don’t have to be the life of the party, but this study supports the theory that maintaining strong social networks seems to be linked to slower cognitive decline,” said Emily Rogalski, associate professor at Northwestern University in the US.
Participants answered a questionnaire called the Ryff Psychological Well-Being Scale, which is a widely used measure of psychological well-being.
The scale examines six aspects of psychological well-being: autonomy, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, personal growth, purpose in life and self-acceptance.
SuperAgers scored a median overall score of 40 in positive relations with others while the control group scored 36, a significant difference, Rogalski said.
“This finding is particularly exciting as a step towards understanding what factors underlie the preservation of cognitive ability in advanced age, particularly those that may be modifiable,” said Amanda Cook, from Northwestern University.
“It’s not as simple as saying if you have a strong social network, you’ll never get Alzheimer’s disease,” Rogalski said.
“But if there is a list of healthy choices one can make, such as eating a certain diet and not smoking, maintaining strong social networks may be an important one on that list,” she said.