A new study has found that older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who have positive beliefs about ageing are more likely to regain normal cognition. The School of Public Health study also found that positive beliefs helped people recover their cognition up to two years earlier than those with negative beliefs. Furthermore, the cognitive recovery advantage was found regardless of baseline MCI severity, according to an article on the Yale School of Public Health’s website
“Most people assume there is no recovery from MCI, but 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,” said Becca Levy, professor of public health and psychology and lead author of the study.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and included 1,716 participants aged 65 and above from the Health and Retirement Study, a national longitudinal study. Published in JAMA Network Open, this is the first study to find evidence that a cultural factor influences recovery for people with MCI, a common type of memory loss. The researchers showed that people who had taken in positive beliefs about ageing from their culture were 30% more likely to regain normal cognition compared to those who had taken in negative beliefs, according to the article.
Previous studies by Levy showed that positive age beliefs reduced the stress caused by cognitive challenges, increased self-confidence about cognition, and improved cognitive performance among older people. Furthermore, 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.
“Our previous research has demonstrated that age beliefs can be modified; therefore, age-belief interventions at the individual and societal levels could increase the number of people who experience cognitive recovery,” Levy said in the article.