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Memory Issues? Here Is Why You Should Cheer Up

If your memory is beginning to fade, cheer up: A positive attitude about aging might reverse that decline.

Older people who experience a common type of memory loss known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are 30% more likely to reverse the situation if they have “taken in positive beliefs about aging from their culture,” according to new research from the Yale School of Public Health.

In fact, those who think positively tend to recover cognition up to two years earlier than those who are locked into negative beliefs about aging.

In a summary of the study’s findings, Becca Levy, professor of public health and of psychology and lead author of the study, says:

“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.”

Levy says her previous research has indicated that those who think more positively about aging report:

  • Lower levels of stress linked to cognitive issues
  • More self-confidence about their cognition
  • Better cognitive performance

However, her most recent research is the first to indicate that a culture-wide factor — in this case, a positive attitude about aging — also helps people recover from memory issues.

In addition, positive beliefs about aging in a culture also might help prevent mild cognitive impairment. People who live in this type of environment were less likely to develop memory issues over a 12-year period than those living in a group that held negative beliefs about aging, according to the researchers.

Fortunately, beliefs about aging can be modified, Levy says. In the summary of the researchers’ findings, she says “age-belief interventions at the individual and societal levels could increase the number of people who experience cognitive recovery.”

You can learn more about preserving your memory in “6 Lifestyle Choices That May Slow Memory Decline.”

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