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Greater lifestyle engagement is associated with better age-adjusted cognitive abilities

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Borgeest, G. Sophia  ORCID logo
Henson, Richard N. 
Shafto, Meredith 
Samu, David 


Previous evidence suggests that modifiable lifestyle factors, such as engagement in leisure activities, might slow the age-related decline of cognitive functions. Less is known, however, about which aspects of lifestyle might be particularly beneficial to healthy cognitive ageing, and whether they are associated with distinct cognitive domains (e.g. fluid and crystallized abilities) differentially. We investigated these questions in the cross-sectional Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) data (N = 708, age 18–88), using data-driven exploratory structural equation modelling, confirmatory factor analyses, and age-residualized measures of cognitive differences across the lifespan. Specifically, we assessed the relative associations of the following five lifestyle factors on age-related differences of fluid and crystallized age-adjusted abilities: education/SES, physical health, mental health, social engagement, and intellectual engagement. We found that higher education, better physical and mental health, more social engagement and a greater degree of intellectual engagement were each individually correlated with better fluid and crystallized cognitive age-adjusted abilities. A joint path model of all lifestyle factors on crystallized and fluid abilities, which allowed a simultaneous assessment of the lifestyle domains, showed that physical health, social and intellectual engagement and education/SES explained unique, complementary variance, but mental health did not make significant contributions above and beyond the other four lifestyle factors and age. The total variance explained for fluid abilities was 14% and 16% for crystallized abilities. Our results are compatible with the hypothesis that intellectually and physically challenging as well as socially engaging activities are associated with better crystallized and fluid performance across the lifespan.



Research Article, Physical sciences, Biology and life sciences, Medicine and health sciences

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Public Library of Science
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (732592)
Wellcome Trust (107392/Z/15/Z))
Medical Research Council (Council SUAG/014 RG91365)
Medical Research Council (SUAG/010 RG91365)