Study Says People Over 50 Lost Brain Power in Pandemic

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Nov. 2, 2023 -- Adults over 50 lost brain strength during the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of infection, a new study in The Lancet says.

Researchers in Great Britain had more than 3,000 people complete annual questionnaires and online cognitive tests that measure memory and other brain functions. 

Study researchers created the PROTECT study to learn how brains age and why people develop dementia. They used brain-training games for memory skill and reasoning. The questionnaire examined risk factors.

Results showed a cognitive decline, with stress, loneliness, and alcohol use possibly explaining some findings, the BBC reported.

Memory decline continued in the second year. People who already had memory issues before COVID-19 began had the worst decline.

“Coping with Covid fears, worries and uncertainties and disruption to routines may have had a ‘real, lasting impact’ on brain health, they say,” the BBC wrote. “The rate of the drop in cognitive function was accelerated during the first year of the pandemic, when lockdowns occurred, the study found.”

Social isolation can also have negative effects on brain health, said Susan Mitchell of Alzheimer’s Research UK. 

"Sadly, there's no sure-fire way to prevent dementia yet, but meanwhile, taking care of our brains can at least help stack the odds in our favour,” she said. “It's never too early or too late to think about adopting healthy habits, which includes looking after your heart health, keeping connected and staying sharp."