Earlier this year, we learned that spending time with Mom might help her live longer. Now, scientists are adding to the list of good reasons to hang out with your 'rents: According to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, maintaining a close, supportive relationship with your parents could help keep their minds sharper longer.
In the April 2017 study, researchers from the United Kingdom analyzed 10 years of data collected from more than 10,000 men and women, including the quality of family relationships throughout the course of the study and incidence of dementia.
It is not only the quantity of social connections, but the quality of those connections that may be affecting older people's cognitive health.
Participants were asked to rate the support from their spouses, children, and other immediate family members on a 1-to-5 scale of positive — defined as "having a reliable, approachable, and understanding relationship" — to negative — defined as "experiences of critical, unreliable, and annoying behaviors."
The researchers found that an increase of even just one point on the positive support scale was associated with as much as a 17 percent decreased risk in the participants developing dementia. And, on the flip side, going down just a single point on the negative support scale was associated with as much as a 30 percent increased risk in participants developing dementia.
Translation: Maintaining a close relationship with your parents as they grow old is linked to their healthier minds — and vice versa.
It's worth noting that the information in this study is self-reported, which might affect its validity, and the research only proves association, not causation. But, as the researchers point out in a recent press release, their findings do add to a growing body of research that supports the idea that personal relationships can have a profound effect on a person's risk of cognitive decline as they age.
"It is not only the quantity of social connections, but the quality of those connections that may be an important factor affecting older people's cognitive health," study co-author Mizanur Khondoker, PhD, said in the release. "This work is a step toward better understanding of the impact of social relationships on dementia risk."
So invite Mom and Dad over for dinner tonight, won't you?