A Yale study links positive attitudes to cognitive recovery

A new study found that older individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were 30% more likely to regain normal cognition if they had positive beliefs about aging, compared to those with negative beliefs, even speeding up their recovery by up to two years.

Research conducted by the Yale School of Public Health discovered that elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a prevalent form of memory loss, had a 30% greater chance of regaining normal cognitive abilities if they had positive attitudes about the aging of their lives. Cultural background, unlike those with negative aging attitudes.

Furthermore, the researchers determined that these positive views about aging also facilitated study participants to regain their cognitive abilities up to two years earlier than those with pessimistic beliefs about aging. This cognitive recovery benefit was seen regardless of baseline severity of MCI.

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

Levy predicted that positive age beliefs could play an important role in cognitive recovery because her previous experimental studies with older adults found that positive age beliefs reduce stress from cognitive challenges, increase self-confidence about perception, and improve cognitive performance.

The new study is the first to find evidence that a culture-based factor — positive beliefs for age — contributes to recovery from mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study has been published in

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.

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

“Our previous research has demonstrated that age beliefs can be modified; therefore, age-belief interventions at the individual and societal levels could increase the number of people who experience cognitive recovery,” Levy said.

Reference: “Role of Positive Age Beliefs in Recovery From Mild Cognitive Impairment Among Older Persons” by Becca R. Levy and Martin D. Slade, 12 April 2023, JAMA Network Open.
DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.7707

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