Time with Friends Lowers Dementia Risk

A new 28-year study published in PLoS Medicine reports that "more frequent social contact during early and midlife may build cognitive reserve, which is maintained and delays or prevents the clinical expression of dementia."

In other words, spend time with friends to lower dementia risk.

Analysis of the study's data revealed that higher amounts of social contact at age 60 were the most significantly associated with a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. Data was less statistically significant at ages below and above 60. The analysis showed that someone who saw friends daily at age 60 was 12% less likely to develop dementia than someone who only saw one or two friends every few months.

Why? Socializing with friends can exercise many parts of the brain--memory, language, vision processing, listening, thinking, emotion and feelings, facial expressions, and hand-foot-body movement. Lunch with a friend is an overall brain workout!

In addition, spending time with friends also can leave you feeling invigorated, intellectually stimulated and create an overall sense of wellbeing. All very good stuff.

Now, not all of us are social butterflies. Sometimes it takes serious self-talk to keep that date. It takes purposeful effort to schedule with a friend or to seek-out new friendships. Be proactive, don't wait for friends to call you or you may end-up sitting alone at home.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Make a standing date--book a 'once-a-week' or 'once-a-month' fun activity together
  • Have a virtual date with long distance friends--Facetime over a cup of coffee
  • Share a walk--socializing while moving has two-for-one benefits
  • Remember those big moments--reach out on friends' birthdays and anniversaries
  • Build traditions & establish rituals--schedule an annual girls' trip, a monthly movie, a weekly manicure date
  • Subscribe to local event listings--invite a friend to join you for that street fair or food festival
  • Check-in on others--reach out to those who might be isolated, it's important to let them know they are not alone and they might just become your next 'bestie'

Filling that social calendar with a healthy circle of friends will not only enrich life, it can also preserve cognitive function and lower the risk of dementia.

Do it now. Pick-up the calendar. Extend an invitation. You'll both benefit.


Sources for research nerds and naysayers:


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002862


DISCLAIMER: This information provided is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgement. See complete disclaimer.

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