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2017 AARP Cognitive Activity and Brain Health Survey

AARP conducted a study of adults age 40+ to characterize participation in cognitively stimulating activities (CSAs).   The study sought to understand factors that influence the participation in CSAs along with the relationship to brain health and mental well-being. The study also explored adults’ willingness to include more CSAs in their daily routine and their willingness to participate in cognitive training. 

Key findings include:

  • Adults who self-report their cognitive functioning, health, and well-being higher:

    • Engage in more cognitively stimulating activities (CSAs) per week.

    • Have higher average mental well-being scores.

    • Have a desire to do even more to improve their brain health.
  • Over eight in 10 adults age 40+ said they are willing to participate in cognitive training and three-quarters are willing to spend 15-minutes or more per day engaged in it. Those who are most willing to participate rate their current cognitive abilities the highest.

  • About one-quarter of adults age 40 and older, and more than four in 10 of those who identify as racial/ethnic minorities, believe that the best way to maintain/improve brain health is to play brain games. Little scientific evidence currently supports this notion. 

  • The most-frequently reported barrier to adding more mentally-stimulating activities is being uncertain of which activities benefit brain health. 

  • Attending religious services is a top activity adults age 40+ believe maintains or improves brain health.

  • The top five activities adults age 40+ are willing to give up in order to add more mentally-stimulating activities are: watching TV/streaming movies, surfing the internet, playing online games not meant for brain training, recreational shopping, and doing nothing in particular. 

  • Less than half of adults age 40+ are confident they can add more mentally-stimulating activities into their weekly routine and say they intend to do so. 

Interviews were conducted online among 1,140 adults age 40+ using GFK’s Knowledge Panel from May 3-18, 2017.  Additional interviews were conducted among African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian adults age 40+.  The data is weighted to reflect Current Population Survey and American Community Survey benchmarks.  For more information, contact Laura Mehegan at or (202) 434-3503.  For media inquiries, contact Greg Phillips at or (202) 434-2544.


Suggested Citation:

Mehegan, Laura, Chuck Rainville, and Laura Skufca. 2017 AARP Cognitive Activity and Brain Health Survey. Washington, DC: AARP Research, July 2017.

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