From Zoom quizzes to the rule of six, socialising has taken a different form in 2020.
But a new study has revealed why it’s more important than ever – particularly for our brains.
New research has found that keeping our social calendars busy can improve brain health.
The findings, reported in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, showed that older adults who socialise regularly with friends, volunteer or attend classes have healthier brains.
It suggests that ‘prescribing’ socialisation could benefit older adults in regards to reducing the risk of dementia – in the same way prescribing physical activity can help to prevent diabetes and heart disease.
Participants provided information about their social engagement and researchers scored them, awarding high scores to people who attended classes or lectures, went to church or other community activities, met with children, friends, relatives or neighbours at least once a week, volunteered, worked or were be married/live with others.
Those who reported greater levels of social engagement had more robust grey matter in regions of the brain relevant in dementia. After these cells die, dementia typically follows – so social engagement can increase this grey matter in the brain.
What’s more, even moderate ‘doses’ of socialisation appear to be beneficial.
While the study was conducted before COVID-19, the findings are particularly relevant for all ages during the pandemic – especially with some people suffering from social isolation.
Dr. Cynthia Felix, from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, said: ‘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.’
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