Reposted from the Yale School of Public Health 

Recent research shows that if your memory is fading, a positive attitude about aging might reverse that decline.

Older people who experience a common type of memory loss known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are 30% more likely to reverse the situation if they have “taken in positive beliefs about aging from their culture,” according to new research from the Yale School of Public Health.

“Most people assume there is no recovery from MCI, but half of those with MCI recover. Not much is known about why some recover while others don’t. That’s why we looked at positive age beliefs, to see if they would help provide an answer,” said Becca Levy, professor of public health and psychology and lead author of the study.

Levy says her previous research indicated that those who think more positively about aging report:

  • Lower levels of stress linked to cognitive issues.
  • Increased self-confidence about their cognition.
  • Improved cognitive performance.

This new study is the first to find evidence that a culture-based factor — positive age beliefs — contributes to MCI recovery. The study appeared in JAMA Network Open.

Older persons in the positive age-belief group who started the study with normal cognition were less likely to develop MCI over the next 12 years than those in the negative age-belief group, regardless of their baseline age and physical health.

Fortunately, beliefs about aging can be modified, Levy says. In the summary of the researchers’ findings, she says, “Age-belief interventions at the individual and societal levels could increase the number of people who experience cognitive recovery.”

The National Institute on Aging funded this study. It had 1,716 participants aged 65 and above drawn from the Health and Retirement Study, a national longitudinal study.

NOTE: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License

© 2023 Levy BR et al. JAMA Network Open. The study was authored by Becca R. Levy, Ph.D., Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, and co-authored by Martin Slade, a biostatistician and lecturer in internal medicine at Yale.

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