Study Shows That Living with Others Slows Cognitive Decline

Cognitive decline in older adults is a major public health issue, with almost 10% of U.S. adults ages 65 and older estimated to have dementia and 32% estimated to have some degree of cognitive impairment. Previous research has shown that living alone and social isolation are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline with age.

A large British study suggests that living with others, whether another person or even a pet, may slow down the decline in cognitive skills that tends to come as people age.

"Research indicates that having long-term, high-quality relationships, whether that’s with family, friends, or romantic relationships, is not only important for happiness but for promoting good brain health and reducing the risk for dementia," said Dr. Leah Croll, assistant professor of neurology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

As the U.S. population ages and the number of single-person households increases, dementia and cognitive decline in older adults will likely become increasingly important public health issues.

It should be noted that the study only tested two domains of cognition and that further work needs to be done to provide a fuller picture of how to slow cognitive decline with age. From what research is available, Croll currently recommends that her patients "stay active, eat a heart-healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet, and keep in touch with their friends," in order to promote healthy aging and prevent cognitive decline.

Joey K. Ng, MD, is an emergency medicine resident at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Contact Fellowship today for more information on how we promote engagement, camaraderie, and overall well-being for those who become a part of The Fellowship Family. 

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