New Study Finds Mental Acuity Tasks Reduce Dementia Risk More Than Socializing or Creative Hobbies

Engaging in mental acuity tasks, such as completing crosswords or using computers, may be more effective in reducing the risk of dementia compared to social activities or creative hobbies, according to a recent study conducted by Monash University. The study analyzed data from over 10,000 Australian adults aged 70 and older and found that those who regularly participated in literacy activities and mind-challenging tasks were 9-11 percent less likely to develop dementia. In contrast, creative hobbies and more passive activities, like reading, only reduced the risk by 7 percent.

The findings of this study highlight the importance of active mental stimulation in reducing dementia risk among older adults. The research may help older individuals and aged care professionals develop targeted approaches to prevent or delay dementia. With 55 million people globally living with dementia in 2022, and 10 million new cases annually, identifying strategies to reduce dementia risk is a global priority.

The study utilized data from the ASPREE (ASpirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) project and the ALSOP (ASPREE Longitudinal Study of Older Persons) sub-study, which included over 10,000 participants. The researchers assessed various leisure activities and social networks to determine their association with dementia risk. They found that participants who routinely engaged in adult literacy and mental acuity tasks, such as education classes, journals, and crosswords, had a significantly lower risk of developing dementia. In contrast, creative hobbies like crafting, knitting, and painting, as well as more passive activities like reading, had a lesser impact on dementia risk reduction.

Even when adjusting for factors like education level and socioeconomic status, the results remained statistically significant. There were no significant variations between men and women in terms of the impact of these activities on dementia risk. The study suggests that actively stimulating the mind and engaging in mentally challenging activities may play a greater role in reducing dementia risk than more passive recreational activities.

While engaging in literacy and mental acuity activities may not be a foolproof way to avoid dementia, the research suggests that these activities are most likely to support prolonged cognitive health. However, the study does not rule out the possibility that individuals naturally drawn to these types of activities may also possess other beneficial personality traits or engage in better health behaviors.

The results also indicated that social connections may still be important for cognitive health and mental well-being, despite not showing a clear link to dementia risk in the study. The participants in the study were already leading socially active lives, so the cognitive benefits of strong social networks may be less evident in this group compared to the general public.

Overall, the findings of this study provide valuable insights into the association between leisure activities, social networks, and dementia risk. The results suggest that engaging in adult literacy, creative art, and active and passive mental activities may help reduce the risk of developing dementia in late life. These findings have important implications for the development of policies and interventions targeting dementia prevention in older adults.