Mar 28, 2017
AARP Survey Reveals Being Social Promotes Brain Health
New survey shows keeping friends over age 40 improves cognitive function; Staying Sharp offers tips to help you stay social

WASHINGTON, DC  AARP recently released the results of its latest Healthy Living survey*, examining the relationship between being social and brain health. According to the survey of more than 2,500 Americans over 40, those with larger social networks rate their brain health higher, and those same survey respondents averaged 19 family members and friends in their social networks.  Women tend to have larger networks than men and survey respondents ages 60+ tend to have more friends than other groups over 40.  AARP also noted that those who are satisfied with their social engagement and relationships (over 80 percent) are likely to learn new things (60 percent) and take better care of their health (65 percent).

Key Findings from the AARP Social Engagement and Brain Health Survey:

  • Brain Boosts: Adults over 40 who are satisfied with their social networks are more likely to rate their overall health and brain health as excellent/very good (75 percent).  Conversely, adults who experience loneliness and isolation report lower mental well-being scores, and are significantly more likely to report a decrease in their cognitive functioning in the previous five years.
  • Barriers to Socializing: Among those who say it is hard to engage with others, the most common reason was lack of time (40 percent), followed by lack of desire (32 percent) and shyness (27 percent).
  • Furry Friends: 92 percent of people with pets agree that their four-legged friends offer them companionship.
  • Older and Wired: 81 percent of adults over 60 are significantly more likely to talk on the phone or video chat, compared to 73 percent of adults 40-49 years old and 72 percent of adults 50-59 years old.

“The weight of evidence suggests that social engagement helps maintain thinking skills and slows cognitive decline in later life,” explained Sarah Lenz Lock, JD, AARP Senior Vice President for Policy, and Executive Director of the Global Council on Brain Health. “Sadly there are far too many people who lack social connections and that can hurt them physically and mentally. We have many programs at AARP, such as Staying Sharp, to help people improve their social engagement.”

Staying Sharp, a subscription-based brain health platform from AARP featuring science-based activities, challenges, recipes and articles to help promote brain health, has some specific tips to get social:

  • Find a Class that Interests You: Many educational institutions offer more than semester-length classes. Some universities offer lunch talks, mixers, lectures, films, fitness and other activities.
  • Make Time for Friends: Friendships need nurturing. Reconnect by setting aside time to email, call, send cards or spend time with friends and associates.
  • Identify a Volunteer Opportunity: Make a list of organizations that interest you by thinking about the options in your community and what you like to do. Identify your top choices, then contact related organizations and inquire about volunteer opportunities.
  • Boost Family Connections and Conversation: At a family meal or get-together, try one of the following conversation starters:  What is your earliest happy memory? What is the most vivid dream you can remember? What do you think it means?

These and more tips and information can be found at http://stayingsharp.aarp.org/.

More information about the survey can be found here.

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health can be found here.

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About Staying Sharp
Staying Sharp is a subscription-based platform from AARP. This product is part of AARP's commitment to provide reliable information on brain health. Staying Sharp uses a holistic approach to provide science-based, personalized tools and recommendations that allow subscribers to track and measure their brain health progress using five key focus areas or "pillars":  NOURISH (eating right), MOVE (keeping fit), RELAX (managing stress), DISCOVER (learning new things), and CONNECT (being social). To learn more, go to http://www.stayingsharp.org/.

About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name.  As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the world’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

*AARP Survey was fielded December 8-26, 2016 among nationally representative sample of 2,585 Americans age 40+.

For further information: Eden Godbee, (202) 434-2687, egodbee@aarp.org ​Kim Kirchner, (212) 536-9837, kim.kirchner@coburnww.com