Study Reveals Social Butterflies May Have Greater Cognitive Health

Humans are wired for socializing, and it turns out that connecting with others is good for your health. The Mayo Clinic reports that being part of a community is positive, improving our sense of well-being and happiness. Being around others also prevents loneliness, which can lead to depression. Even socializing via technology has benefits. 

Researchers have found that being social also helps our mental state by improving our memory and cognitive skills. Psychology Today reports the findings of a 2020 study using brain scans of 293 "community-dwelling" people with an average age of 83 and who actively participated in social engagements, such as attending classes or events or socializing with neighbors, friends, or family. In participants who had more levels of social engagement, the scans showed greater amounts of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with dementia. From these results, researchers believe social engagement is critical to cognitive health. Now, new research provides more evidence highlighting the importance of being socially active later in life.

Social interaction may protect people with pre-dementia

The latest study was conducted by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which gathered information from 2,192 people in the U.S. who were middle-aged and older, covering a span of five years, according to Medical News Today. In addition to looking at social activities, researchers examined lifestyle factors such as physical activity, smoking history, and alcohol consumption. Other factors like sex, age, and income were control variables. What they found was that social interaction seemed to improve brain health in people who showed signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

More research is needed to explore the link between MCI and social interaction. However, Dr. Maryam Afzal, Ph.D., research associate at the University of Bristol, told Medical News Today that being social requires using "complex neuron pathways," adding that "remembering names and events linked to each person you interact with could be exercising the brain. You need to use it or lose it!"