Navigation Links
Active Social Life Helps Keep Aging Mind Sharp
Date:5/29/2008

Another study finds institutionalization especially common after the death of a spouse

THURSDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- People who keep up active social lives as they age may be doing their brain a favor, a new study finds.

Being socially active may increase feelings of self-worth and emotional validation that could end up helping maintain memory, researchers say. Social interaction may also present older minds with new challenges, keeping the brain more agile.

"We assessed social integration by marital status, volunteer activities and frequency of contact with children and neighbors," explained lead researcher Karen Ertel, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.

Her team found that "people who were most socially integrated had memory decline of less than half the rate compared with those who were the least socially integrated," Ertel said.

The report is published in the May 29 online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

In the study, Ertel's team collected data on almost 17,000 Americans, 50 and older, who participated in the Health and Retirement Study. To test memory, the researchers had participants memorize a list of 10 words. Over six years, researchers tested recall of the word list to assess any decline in immediate and delayed recall.

Average memory scores declined from 11 in 1998 to 10 in 2004, the researchers reported. People who were more socially engaged at the start of the study had a slower decline in memory, compared with people who were more socially isolated, the researchers found.

According to Ertel, the findings indicate that "social activity may help preserve cognitive functioning in the elderly. In addition, people who are socially active may also have other healthful behaviors, which may be related to cognition and better physical health."

In another study in the same issue of the journal, Finnish researchers reported that elderly people are more likely to be institutionalized following the death of a spouse.

"We found that the risk of entering long-term institutional care was higher among older adults who had lost their spouse than among those living with their spouse," said lead researcher Elina Nihtila, from the department of sociology at the University of Helsinki.

Moreover, the excess risk of institutionalization was highest during the first month after the spouse's death, Nihtila said. "The risk was more than three times among both men and women, and decreased with time from bereavement, stabilizing at approximately 20 percent to 50 percent higher over one to five years," she said.

Fortunately, a large proportion of surviving spouses are likely to recover from partner loss, and feelings of despair and anxiety typically do diminish over time, Nihtila said. This "emotional recovery could explain why the very large excess risk of entering institutional care among those recently bereaved dropped with time from the spouse's death," she said.

The study involved data on almost 141,000 people 65 and older living with a spouse. During five years of follow-up, the risk of being institutionalized rose immediately after the death of a spouse, the researchers found.

There could be various explanations for these findings, Nihtila said, including a "loss of social and instrumental support, in the form of care and help with daily activities such as help in cooking, cleaning, and shopping formerly shared with the deceased spouse."

In addition, grief and spousal loss may cause various symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue and loss of concentration, Nihtila noted. "Furthermore, grief may cause increased susceptibility to physical diseases that could also increase the need for institutional care," she said.

Home help services targeted to the bereaved immediately after a spouse's death might help ease the strain, Nihtila said.

One expert said the studies highlight the problem of growing social isolation among the elderly.

"There is nothing like being face-to-face with someone," said Colin Milner, CEO of the Vancouver-based International Council on Active Aging. "But I think we are manufacturing that [contact] out of our lifestyle and that will have a long term detrimental effect on the mental health of the population," he said.

More outreach to older people, especially when a spouse dies, will be key, Milner said. "There should be programs when a spouse dies to help them get back into the swing of life," he said.

More information

For more on healthy aging, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



SOURCES: Elina Nihtila, Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Finland; Karen Ertel, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Colin Milner, CEO, International Council on Active Aging, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; May 29, 2008, online edition, American Journal of Public Health


'/>"/>
Copyright©2008 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Many Older Americans Have Active Sex Lives
2. More than two-thirds of sexually active NYC youth use condoms, but other forms of birth control lag
3. Schwablearning.Org Launches Interactive Tool to Help Parents of Children Struggling in School
4. Human C-reactive protein regulates myeloma tumor cell growth and survival
5. National Movement Disorders Interactive Experience Center Comes to Tampa Bay for First Time
6. Figure Skater Peggy Fleming Teams with HealthSaver: Raise Healthy Children Through Active Parenting
7. A New Interactive Consumer Experience Highlighting Successful Weight Loss Strategies is Coming to a Mall Near You
8. PDL BioPharma to Actively Seek Sale of Entire Company or Its Key Assets
9. Strawberry Consumption Associated with C-Reactive Protein Among Women: New Harvard Study
10. Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Men with chronic heart failure can have active sex lives
11. Inside job: new radioactive agents for colon cancer work inside cells
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Active Social Life Helps Keep Aging Mind Sharp
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... ... “America On The Brink”: the Christian history of the United States and the loss ... author, William Nowers. Captain Nowers and his wife, Millie, have six children, ten ... the Navy. Following his career as a naval aviator and carrier pilot, he ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... The company has developed ... consumer and regulatory authorities worldwide. From Children’s to Adults 50+, every formula has ... highest standard. , These products are also: Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Soy ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Information about ... intend to develop to enable prevention of a major side effect of chemotherapy ... especially in pediatric patients. For cisplatin, hearing loss is FDA listed on-label as ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... On Saturday, October 21, the Health ... Miles by Moonlight to raise money for the American Heart Association Heart Walk. Teams ... Teams will work together to keep their treadmills moving for 5 hours. Treadmills will ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Vohra Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shark Bird, ... nursing facility medical directors and other clinicians at various events in October. His ... many of these conferences we get to educate other physicians, facility nurses, corporate ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/2/2017)... , Oct. 2, 2017 The Rebound mobile app ... struggle to reverse the tide of prescription drug addiction. The ... their medicine intake and stepping down their dosage in a ... launch in December 2017; the first 100,000 people to sign ... at http://www.rebound-solution.com/ ...
(Date:9/27/2017)... YORK , Sept. 27, 2017  DarioHealth Corp. (NASDAQ: DRIO), a ... today announced that its MyDario product is expected to appear on The ... when The Dr. Oz Show airs in your area: http://www.doctoroz.com/page/where-watch-dr-oz-show ... The nine-time Emmy award-winning, The Dr. Oz ... The ...
(Date:9/22/2017)... 2017  As the latest Obamacare repeal effort moves ... (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) medical ... device industry is in an odd place.  The industry ... excise tax on medical device sales passed along with ... patients, increased visits and hospital customers with the funding ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: