The technological advancements today require immediate adjustment from the individuals to keep with the modern day world. The group that finds practices like these hard are older adults who already have to face health problems like cognitive decline and social issues like ageism.
This leaves very little room for older adults to engage in social interactions. A number of studies have shown that this is even more harmful considering it may affect the mental and physical health of the person.
For example, as mentioned before, problems in cognition can greatly affect the quality of life. Cognitive decline is a general term used for a decrease in mental abilities that comes with the process of aging.
The problem is very common in older adults but the intensity may vary from person to person. While in some it slows down mental abilities, others may face more negative effects. In addition, a higher mental decline may cause the development of disorders like dementia.
Since dementia is becoming more common day by day, it is important to know what are the causes. A number of studies have hinted the rise of the issue may be due to increased social problems such as ageism.
New research conducted by researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looks at the connection between cognitive decline and social interaction. The findings of the study are published in the American Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Read the study here.
How Was the Study Conducted?
In order to study the potential link between levels of social interaction and changes in cognition, the researchers used the data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study.
This study included a total of two hundred and seventeen older adults who were all between the ages of 63-90 and had no issues with cognition at the starting of the research.
The participants were given questionnaires containing questions on their social interactions with friends, family members, or other people at places they visited.
At the same time, the researchers did an examination of the participants’ brains and specifically of the protein beta-amyloid. Previous research has shown that this protein is among the main signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
The observation of the protein is what sets this study apart from the ones from the past. Whereas there is medical literature present on social interaction and cognitive abilities, none of it considers the role of beta-amyloid in the process.
What Were the Results?
As expected by the team, the levels of the beta-amyloid protein varied from one person to another. This is what mainly helped the researchers form a link between the levels of cognitive decline and social interaction.
It was found that the participants with the highest levels of socializing had lower levels of cognitive decline in comparison with those who did not have that much social interaction but the same levels of beta-amyloid in their brain.
In addition, it was seen that the participants who developed cognitive issues at the earliest times of the study were less likely to be involved in social activities.
This observation was true even after the researchers looked at a number of factors such as sex, levels of education, and age.
These findings point towards the conclusion that more social interaction may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. However, the data in the study was limited and the observation period of three years was not enough.
The team agrees that more research is required in the matter which also includes factors such as anxiety and depression.