Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Want to stay sharp? Do voluntary work

grandma_cane_fencing_500_wht_192A study of over 9,000 people over 40 years has found that volunteering keeps your thinking skills sharp.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s Neighbourhood watch, your local political party, or a community group.  Encouraging people to get active helps protect their brains against dementia.

The professor at Southampton University who led the study said “The implication is that if people continue to engage socially throughout life, maintaining related behaviours hat require cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and control, there may be some protection from cognitive decline”

Public health interventions aimed at promoting cognitive health could include encouraging civic engagement and providing opportunities for it she said.

There is no cure for dementia so preventing it is important as the population ages.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said “there is strong evidence that exercise can help keep our brains healthy throughout our lives but there is less research into the impact of socialising. 

This large and interesting study suggests that being sociable, for example by joining a community group, can help our kept our brains sharp in middle age. However it did not examine whether socialising can actually affect our risk of developing dementia

Current evidence suggests that a healthy diet and exercise can reduce the risk of memory problems. This study suggest that socialising could be added to that list. Years ago I remember reading about an experiment in care homes where instead of having the hairs arranged along the walls they put them into groups. This encouraged the patients to interact and they had a better quality of ife. So this idea is not new.

The people in this study were tested for their cognitive skills at age 11 and followed for 40 years. Only 14% were volunteering at age 30 but this proportion rose to 25% by age 50 when their skills were re-tested.

A fifth of the difference in people’s cognitive skills could be attributed to volunteering plus other factors such as sport, education and just being a woman – all thought to protect the brain.

So if you’ve nothing better to do go out and volunteer for something, anything to get you out of the house and mixing with people.


Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

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