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Having a positive outlook could reduce memory decline in older age, study finds

A cheery disposition could benefit consumers’ cognitive function

Photo (c) Eoneren - Getty Images
Though it can be difficult to always look on the bright side, experts continue to find ways that being more optimistic and positive can benefit consumers’ physical and mental health. Recent studies have highlighted the ways that positive thinking can benefit consumers’ lifespans, sleeping schedules, and disease risk

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the Association for Psychological Science has found that having a positive outlook can also reduce the likelihood of memory decline in older age. 

While memory tends to decline with age, researchers found that having a positive outlook can reduce the severity of memory decline over time.

“Individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of a decade,” said researcher Emily Hittner, PhD. 

Long-term benefits of optimism

To better understand how a positive attitude can benefit consumers’ cognitive function into older age, the researchers enlisted the participation of nearly 1,000 middle-aged and older-aged adults.

At the first session, participants reported on any positive feelings they had experienced in the last month, while two follow-up sessions -- which took place over the course of a decade -- required the participants to complete memory assessments. This process allowed the researchers to determine what role positivity played in long-term memory function.  

After accounting for several factors that could affect memory decline, including depression, education, and age, among several others, the researchers determined that positivity was linked with better memory outcomes over the long-term. The participants that were the most cheerful at the start of the study maintained the best memory function by the end of the study. 

While the researchers plan to do more work in this area to better understand how a positive disposition can affect memory in older consumers, these findings provide a solid foundation for establishing the link between positivity and memory ability. 

Keeping memory sharp

As Hause mentioned, memory decline is common and expected in older age. However, several recent studies have discovered things that could worsen memory, as well as things that could boost memory skills for older consumers. 

Experts have found that poor sleeping habits and popular prescription drugs could lead to memory troubles for older consumers, whereas exercise and diet can work to consumers’ advantage and help to sharpen memory into older age.   

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