The questions spanned across six criteria: “autonomy, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance.”
Participants were at least 80 years old, and their episodic memory was “at least as good” as that of their middle-aged peers.
Episodic memory is defined as “the capacity to recall specific experiences, as if one were to ‘mentally time travel’ to re-experience individual events.”
Both the SuperAgers and the age-matched groups showed similar, high levels of mental well-being and stability across a variety of dimensions. However, the SuperAgers had much greater amounts of positive, social relationships.
Medical News Today states:
“More specifically, SuperAgers scored a median of 40 in the measure of social relations with others, whereas the controls only scored 36. As the senior researcher explains, this is a significant difference.
It could be the case, the authors write, that this difference is reflected in some neurological traits that have been observed in previous studies, as well.
These neurological features are “the greater thickness of the anterior cingulate gyrus and higher density of von Economo neurons” that researchers previously found in the brains of SuperAgers.
However, this is only a speculation, as the study is observational and cannot explain the mechanisms responsible for the findings.”
Rogalski notes that these results are very compelling, as they show that there is a link between the act of maintaining strong friendships and the slowing down of mental decline.
Granted, Rogalski recognizes that this is not a guarantee. “It’s not as simple as saying if you have a strong social network, you’ll never get Alzheimer’s disease,” she states. Despite this, having a strong social circle can be an excellent way to help prevent it.
According to Rogalski:
“[If] there is a list of healthy choices one can make, such as eating a certain diet and not smoking, maintaining strong social networks may be an important one on that list. None of these things by [themselves guarantee] you don’t get the disease, but they may still have health benefits.”
– Emily Rogalski