Crossword puzzles outperform socializing in dementia prevention

A new study from Monash University has found that certain activities, including taking classes, using a computer, doing crosswords, and playing games like chess, may be effective in helping older individuals avoid dementia, while socializing has no effect.

The study, titled "Lifestyle Enrichment in Later Life and Its Association With Dementia Risk," was published in JAMA Network Open. It used data from 10,318 Australians aged 70 and older. According to a press release provided by Monash University, researchers found that "participants who routinely engaged in adult literacy and mental acuity tasks such as attending education classes, keeping journals, and doing crosswords were 9-11 percent less likely to develop dementia than their peers." Reading, listening to music, watching TV, keeping up with the news, and pursuing creative hobbies like crafting, knitting, and painting reduced the risk by 7 percent.

"In contrast, the size of someone's social network and the frequency of outings, such as to the cinema or restaurant, were not associated with dementia risk reduction," said the release.

The results of the study remained significant even when adjusted for earlier education levels and socioeconomic status, with no significant variations found between men and women.

According to the senior author of the study, Associate Professor Joanne Ryan, "active manipulation of previously stored knowledge" may play a greater role in dementia risk reduction than passive recreational activities. "Keeping the mind active and challenged may be particularly important."