Older adults who have a busy lifestyle also have better cognitive function, new research reports.
The results come from one of the most comprehensive studies of how the brain changes with age: The Dallas Lifespan Brain Study.
Dr Sara Festini, the study’s first author, said:
“We show that people who report greater levels of daily busyness tend to have better cognition, especially with regard to memory for recently learned information.
Living a busy lifestyle appears beneficial for mental function, although additional experimental work is needed to determine if manipulations of busyness have the same effect.”
The Dallas Lifespan Brain Study included 330 people aged between 50 and 89.
Their daily routines were recorded along with their cognitive performance.
The results showed that whatever age they were, the brains of people who were busier worked better.
Busier people had better:
- working memory,
- and episodic memory (the ability to remember specific events in the past).
It’s not yet clear exactly what causes what.
For example, people with more active brains may tend to be busier people.
The researchers, though, think that being busy gives people more opportunities to learn and puts them in more new situations.
Being busy also tends to bring people into contact with others more.
Both factors may help to stimulate the brain.
Professor Denise Park, a study co-author, said:
“We were surprised at how little research there was on busyness, given that being too busy seems to be a fact of modern life for so many.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (Festini et al., 2016).