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:2/12/2016)... FLA (PRWEB) , ... February 12, 2016 , ... Miami ... dental implants to their Miami dental office. Beginning in January, Miami Dental Specialists ... titanium. Miami Dental Specialists are the first office to be chosen by the dental ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... Atlantic ... for Health Plans and PBMs,” an upcoming Feb. 24 webinar that will discuss ... in big-dollar therapeutic categories, such as the $1,000-per-pill hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi and ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... ... Coast Autism Spectrum Center (CCASC) invites teens ages 11-18 to its annual Winter Teen Dance. ... and without special needs to gather in a safe and supportive environment. Volunteers will be ... place on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Elks Lodge, 322 Elks ...
(Date:2/12/2016)... ... February 12, 2016 , ... With the exception of restorative dentistry, to date there has ... With the recent approval by the FDA, there is a now a new protocol in ... SDF is very simple and quick to apply. The application is as simple as ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... SPH Analytics announced ... analytics leader’s population health solutions, MDinsight® and IndiGO®, for its primary care clinicians. ... system. Details of the contract were not disclosed. , As the healthcare market ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... FRANCISCO , Feb. 11, 2016  Kindred Biosciences, ... on saving and improving the lives of pets, today ... Section of the New Animal Drug Application (NADA) for ... pivotal field study (KB0120) of Zimeta for the control ... the Company. --> --> ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... Feb. 11, 2016  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today ... 1,400 jobs throughout Western New York ... the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, includes a major expansion of ... Buffalo , as well as the ... in Dunkirk . The combined projects ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO , Feb. 11, 2016 Potrero ... system, is pleased to announce the appointment of George ... San Antonio, TX , WellMed is ... servicing over 200,000 patients and HMO members in ... founding WellMed in 1990 out of his own internal medicine ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: