According to a research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, keeping social connections in the old age will keep you stay healthy. As people age, they tend to lose out family and friends, which leaves a deep impact on their physical and mental wellbeing. Loneliness increases a person’s chance of cognitive decline.
This study was conducted by researchers at Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CNADC), Northwestern University. Rogalski, a professor at CNADC and the research author, studied the cognitive abilities of people in their 80s but bearing mental agility of those in their 50s or 60s. Social networks of the participants were also examined.
Rogalski studied 31 people, who were the treatment group and 19 others, who formed the control group and made them fill out a questionnaire that dealt with questions regarding their psychological and physical wellbeing. The questions were related to diverse areas like autonomy, life’s purpose, self-acceptance, relations with others, environmental mastery.
The age of the participants was 80 years and their episodic memory – the ability to recall specific experiences while traveling back in time – was nearly as fine as their middle-aged counterparts.
The treatment group, which was socially active had higher levels of psychological well-being across various dimensions as demonstrated by the answers. The mean score of the treatment group was 40 while that of the controlled group was 36. According to the hypothetical testing, this is a significant difference.
Researchers found that in the brains of the treatment group, there was more density of some specific neurons and greater thickness of anterior cingulate gyrus. However, the study has its own limitations and more research is needed to further establish the facts.
The health consequences of remaining isolated are dire. It can disturb one’s sleep, increase the levels of stress hormone, i.e., cortisol, increase blood pressure, and trigger episodes of depression.
It pays to have healthy social connections
Maintaining strong social bonds is associated with slower decline in cognitive abilities. It is also not true that having friends would completely eliminate the chances of you getting Alzheimer’s disease or dementia for that matter. But, it can definitely work as a preventive factor. Thus, it does not mean that eating the right food or having strong social connections will guarantee that you won’t get the disease in the first place, but both factors have their own health benefits.