Having a sense of purpose in life can slash risk of developing dementia, study suggests – Daily Mail

Having a sense of purpose in life can slash risk of developing dementia, study suggests

  • Feeling a sense of purpose can lower risk of developing dementia, study shows
  • It was linked with 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment 
  • People with a higher sense of purpose also more likely to engage in exercise 

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Feeling a sense of purpose or meaning in life can lower the risk of developing dementia, a study shows.

Researchers reviewed evidence from eight previously published papers which included data from 62,250 older adults across three continents.

They found higher purpose or meaning in life was ‘significantly associated’ with a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Notably, having a sense of purpose was linked with a 19 per cent reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment.

This means they were almost a fifth less likely to have experienced concerning declines in memory, language and thinking abilities.

Researchers found higher purpose or meaning in life was ¿significantly associated¿ with a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Notably, having a sense of purpose was linked with a 19 per cent reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment (file image)

Researchers found higher purpose or meaning in life was ¿significantly associated¿ with a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Notably, having a sense of purpose was linked with a 19 per cent reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment (file image)

Researchers found higher purpose or meaning in life was ‘significantly associated’ with a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Notably, having a sense of purpose was linked with a 19 per cent reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment (file image)

This level of cognitive impairment is not as serious as dementia but it increases risk of the condition. 

Previous evidence suggests that feeling a purpose in life may be beneficial to recovering from stress and is associated with reduced inflammation in the brain – both of which may be associated with a reduced risk of dementia.

People with a higher sense of purpose may also be more likely to engage in activities such as exercise and involve themselves socially, which may protect against dementia risk.

The findings, published in the journal Ageing Research Reviews, also indicated that a positive mood did not seem to have an effect on dementia risk.

People with a higher sense of purpose may also be more likely to engage in activities such as exercise and involve themselves socially, which may protect against dementia risk (file image)

People with a higher sense of purpose may also be more likely to engage in activities such as exercise and involve themselves socially, which may protect against dementia risk (file image)

People with a higher sense of purpose may also be more likely to engage in activities such as exercise and involve themselves socially, which may protect against dementia risk (file image) 

Lead author Dr Joshua Stott, from University College London, said: ‘Dementia prevention programmes for at-risk groups that focus on wellbeing could benefit by prioritising activities that bring purpose and meaning to people’s lives, rather than just hedonistic activities that might increase positive mood states.

‘For example, if environmentalism is important to someone, they might benefit from helping in a community garden.’

First author and PhD student Georgia Bell said: ‘We have found that a sense of purpose may reduce the risk of dementia, adding to other evidence linking meaningful living to improved mental health and reduced risk of disability and heart disease.’

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