Anyone with close friends knows the many benefits that friendship brings on the surface: companionship, laughter, and lots of sisterly love. But as a small study recently discovered, there may be an incredible health benefit to keeping close friends as you get up there in age: keeping your mind sharp.
Yes, new research published in the journal PLOS One suggests that keeping close friends as you get older may help you stave off mental decline. The study, conducted by researchers from the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center (CNADC) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examined a group of "SuperAgers" — aka people who are in their 80s but have maintained the mental agility of a 60-year-old or even a 50-year-old. They asked 31 of these SuperAgers and 19 non-SuperAger people in that same age group to complete questionnaire about their psychological well-being. One significant difference between SuperAgers and their peers? Social relationships with other people.
"While SuperAgers and their [age-matched] peers reported similarly high levels of psychological well-being across multiple dimensions, SuperAgers endorsed greater levels of positive social relationships," wrote the authors.
"You don't have the be the life of the party, but this study supports the theory that maintaining strong social networks seems to be linked to slower cognitive decline," added senior study author Emily Rogalski.
It's worth noting that the researchers said that the results don't prove that having close friends means that you'll never get Alzheimer's disease. There are certainly other factors that play a role in cognitive decline. However, this study shows that our friends could potentially be a helpful (and fun!) prevention factor. And who could say no to that?
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