Positive Beliefs About Aging are Good for Memory Recovery

2 min read

April 13, 2023 -- Older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are more likely to recover their function if they feel good about aging, compared to those who have negative emotions about it, a new study from the Yale School of Public Health says.

MCI is a common form of memory loss. Positive beliefs about aging give older people a 30% better chance of recovering normal thinking.

“Researchers also found that these positive beliefs also enabled participants to recover their cognition up to two years earlier than those with negative age beliefs,” Neuroscience News reported. “This cognitive recovery advantage was found regardless of baseline MCI severity.”

More than 1,700 people over age 65 participated in the study, which was published in JAMA Network Open.

“In previous experimental studies with older persons, positive age beliefs reduced stress caused by cognitive challenges, increased self-confidence about cognition, and improved cognitive performance,” study authors wrote. “We therefore hypothesized that older persons with positive age beliefs would be more likely to recover from MCI and would do so sooner compared with individuals with negative age beliefs.”

Becca Levy, professor of public health and psychology and lead author of the study, told Neuroscience News, “Most people assume there is no recovery from MCI, but in fact half of those who have it do recover. Little is known about why some recover while others don’t. That’s why we looked at positive age beliefs, to see if they would help provide an answer.”

“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,” Neuroscience News reported.

“Considering that positive age beliefs can be strengthened, our findings suggest that age-belief interventions at individual and societal levels could increase the number of people who experience cognitive recovery,” the study said.