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Home > Research Articles > Hobbies, socializing may help ward off dementia

Reuters Health

Saturday, June 22, 2002

- Hobbies, socializing may help ward off dementia NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Older people who lead active lives, whether it's a regular game of cards, gardening or reading, may be protecting themselves from mental decline, according to researchers. Their study of adults aged 75 and older found that those who regularly socialized, had hobbies such as sewing and gardening, or exercised their minds with crossword puzzles and other activities were less likely to develop dementia over the next 6 years. Dr. Hui-Xin Wang of the Stockholm Gerontology Research Center in Sweden and his colleagues report the findings in the June 15th issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. Wang's team followed 732 elderly adults without dementia over 6 years. At the start of the study, participants were interviewed about their leisure activities. This included mental tasks such as reading, crossword puzzles and drawing; social activities including going to concerts and playing cards; and "productive" activities such as gardening, cooking, volunteer work and sewing. The researchers found that all of these types of activities, when done daily or weekly, appeared to protect participants against dementia--cutting the risk by more than 40%. Similarly, participants who reported getting daily exercise such as walking and swimming had about half the risk of dementia of less physically active men and women. The link between an active lifestyle and lower dementia risk remained after Wang's team factored in age, education and mental and physical health at the study's start. These results, they conclude, "suggest that stimulating activity, either mentally or socially oriented, may protect against dementia." The researchers point out that mental tasks, by requiring thought and attention, might help maintain a person's "brain reserve" into old age. And social or productive activities can help sustain a positive self-image, which may have health benefits for the elderly. Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.