Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW
July 09, 2018
Active participation in intellectual activities, such as reading and playing board games or card games, may delay or prevent dementia in older adults, even if these activities take place in late life, new research suggests.
Investigators studied more than 15,000 adults aged 65 years and older for up to 7 years and found that those who reported participating in intellectual activities were less likely to develop dementia, even after adjusting for health behaviors, physical and psychiatric comorbidities, and sociodemographic factors.
“With this large sample, we were able to control for other physical and lifestyle confounders; therefore, our findings give robust evidence that the benefits of intellectual activities are independent of physical health status,” she said.
The study was published in the July issue of JAMA Psychiatry.
“Increasing evidence suggests that active participation in intellectual activities…can help reduce the risk of dementia among older adults,” the authors write.
However, it is unclear whether the intellectual activity per se is protective against dementia or whether other factors are involved. Individuals who engage in intellectual activities typically engage in more health-promoting activities, such as engaging in exercise, eating a balanced diet, and refraining from smoking.
Moreover, intellectual activities “often encompass a mixture of cognitive, social, and recreational components,” so it is hard to tease out whether the cognitive training, social engagement, or positive experience is the contributor to better cognitive health.
Although previous studies excluded people with dementia at baseline, people in preclinical stages of dementia may have already experienced difficulties in intellectual activities and curtailed their involvement in such activities.