Some studies have shown that older people who consistently engage in recreational activities are less likely to develop dementia than those who do not, suggesting that not participating in such recreational activities can lead to cognitive decline. A new study suggests a different explanation: Failure to participate in recreational activities may be a consequence of dementia, not a cause.
The researchers studied 8,280 people, a mean age of 56, who were free of dementia at the start of the analysis. Over the next 18 years, participants underwent regular physical and mental exams as researchers tracked their participation in 13 recreational activities – listening to music, gardening, attending cultural events, playing cards, using a home computer, and others. By the end of the project, 360 had developed dementia.
The study in Neurology was reviewed for smoking, physical activity, education, coronary artery disease, and other health and behavioral characteristics associated with risk of dementia. They found no association between recreational activity at the age of 56 and the incidence of dementia over the following 18 years.
The researchers concluded that active participation in recreational activities may not protect against the development of dementia. “Dementia develops over a long period of time, so it is possible for some changes to occur before dementia is diagnosed,” said lead author Andrew Sommerlad, a researcher at University College London. “Older people who withdraw from activities they previously enjoyed may develop early signs of dementia.”