In March 2018, the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) met at Age UK in London to examine the impact of mental well-being on brain health in adults age 50 and older. Throughout the discussion, experts examined the evidence on how mental well-being can influence the cognitive abilities of people as they age. Because mental well-being is a potentially modifiable factor that people can take active steps to improve, the GCBH evaluated the state of the science on whether adults could improve their brain health by improving their mental well-being. The GCBH gives people 17 practical tips to optimize their mental well-being.
The GCBH agreed that mental well-being is related to people’s brain health as they age. Poor mental well-being (e.g., pessimism, not feeling useful) may interfere with people abilities to think and reason, as well as how they interact with others and regulate their emotions. The GCBH further agreed that greater mental well-being is associated with reduced dementia risks, and that it is possible to maintain mental well-being even if you experience declines in your cognitive abilities or physical health. Importantly, regardless of age, you can take steps to improve your mental well-being by engaging in purposeful activity and living a healthy lifestyle. Building off their previous reports on how healthy lifestyle choices such as exercising, engaging your brain, getting adequate sleep and social engagement could improve brain health, the GCBH explored how improving your mental well-being could impact your thinking and reasoning skills. The result is a holistic approach of recommendations to help adults feel good and function well, and cope with life’s challenges in order to promote better brain health. Some of the recommendations include: take the time to develop and strengthen relationships with family and friends, identify enjoyable hobbies that lift your mood even when you are down, try a mindful movement practice such as yoga or tai chi, and engage in regular exercise to benefit the body and mind.
To complement the GCBH’s report, AARP surveyed 2,287 American adults age 18 and older about their perceptions of their own mental well-being and brain health. This survey demonstrates an interesting relationship between individuals’ perceptions of their mental well-being and their self-reported memory and thinking skills. While the survey can’t establish cause and effect, the survey found that adults age 50 or older who scored higher on the scale of mental well-being tended to report better memory and thinking skills. Full survey results can be found in the section below.
As a result of these deliberations, the GCBH Governance Committee approved the following recommendations on mental well-being and brain health for people as they age.
To find out more about mental well-being’s effect on your brain, see this article by Kathleen Fifield.
Download the Recommendations
Practical Tips to Boost Brain Health for Healthier Living
Click image to view full PDF
Adults who report they have a more positive view of aging have higher average mental well-being scores and lower depression and anxiety scores compared to those who do not. Learn more.
HIROKO AKIYAMA, PH.D.
Professor, University of Tokyo, Japan
LORI DAIELLO, PH.D.
Assistant Professor, Brown University, USA
LINDA LAM, M.D.
Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
ANDREAS MEYER-LINDENBERG, M.D. M.B.A.
Professor, University of Heidelberg, Germany
JENS PRUESSNER, PH.D.
Professor, University of Konstanz, Germany
AMANDA THOMPSELL, M.D.
Chair, Old Age Psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK
Global Council on Brain Health (2018). “Brain Health and Mental Well-Being: GCBH Recommendations on Feeling Good and Functioning Well.” Available at www.GlobalCouncilOnBrainHealth.org
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