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Leisure activities may link loneliness and cognitive problems

A new study shows that leisure activities, including mental, physical and social activities, can play an important role in reducing loneliness and the cognitive decline that can accompany it. Results show that doctors and health care providers should consider encouraging older adults to participate in leisure activities to mitigate the negative cognitive effects associated with loneliness, a new study shows.

The report was published on Tuesday Translational psychiatry.

The researchers evaluated data from 4,772 older adults over the age of 50. The researchers looked at loneliness, characteristics and leisure activity scale scores, as well as cognitive function tests. Data comes from the Beijing Aging Brain Rejuvenation Initiative, or BABRI. It did not include imaging or biomarker tests, the authors noted.

Of the people, 16.7% of participants had a low level of loneliness and 17.6% had a high level of loneliness.

The team found a link between higher levels of loneliness and lower scores in general cognitive skills, memory and executive functions. The current research shows that language, attention and visual space are not related to loneliness.

Previous research has linked loneliness to parts of the brain that control memory, and other studies have linked it to processing speed, the authors noted. Research shows that loneliness can cause changes in leisure activities, and it also indicates that loneliness can influence an older adult’s willingness to participate in social and physical activities that can impact cognitive health, the team wrote.

“This study suggested the importance of paying attention to the loneliness of older people. Taking care of their mental health problems will not only help them participate in leisure activities and improve the quality of their later life, but also help prevent dementia,” the authors wrote.

“In addition, families and communities should organize and encourage older adults to participate in various leisure activities, including mental, physical and social activities, to maintain the vitality of their brains and prevent cognitive decline,” the authors said.

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