Use it or lose it: engaged lifestyle as a buffer of cognitive decline in aging?

D F Hultsch, C Hertzog, B J Small, R A Dixon
Psychology and Aging 1999, 14 (2): 245-63
Data from the Victoria Longitudinal Study were used to examine the hypothesis that maintaining intellectual engagement through participation in everyday activities buffers individuals against cognitive decline in later life. The sample consisted of 250 middle-aged and older adults tested 3 times over 6 years. Structural equation modeling techniques were used to examine the relationships among changes in lifestyle variables and an array of cognitive variables. There was a relationship between changes in intellectually related activities and changes in cognitive functioning. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that intellectually engaging activities serve to buffer individuals against decline. However, an alternative model suggested the findings were also consistent with the hypothesis that high-ability individuals lead intellectually active lives until cognitive decline in old age limits their activities.

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