Can Leisure Activities Reduce Dementia Risk?

Dementia is considered a major neurocognitive disorder, in which a deficit in cognitive functioning is acquired rather than developmental. Dementia is most common in elderly individuals, with advancing age being the strongest risk factor. There are many types of this condition such as Alzheimer Dementia (AD) and Vascular Dementia (VD) , among others of all-cause dementia (ACD). 

About 47 million people live with dementia globally; by 2050, there will be an almost three-fold increase to an estimated 131 million people afflicted with dementia.

Previous studies have shown a link between leisure activities and various health benefits, such as a lower risk for cancer and atrial fibrillation and subjective well-being. However, there has been conflicting evidence on the role of leisure activities in reducing dementia risk.

Engaging in physical, cognitive, and social activities can all help lower risk for dementia. Results from a large meta-analysis showed cognitive activities, such as reading, participating in handicrafts, and playing games or a musical instrument, appeared to have the greatest effect. It was associated with a 23% reduced risk for dementia.

New large meta-analysis shows tools to decrease the risk of dementia

Lin Lu, PhD, Peking University Sixth Hospital in Beijing, China, and colleagues reviewed 38 longitudinal studies that examined the effects of different types of leisure activities on dementia incidence in more than 2.1 million people.

Study participants provided information on their leisure activities through questionnaires or interviews. Leisure activities were divided into cognitive, physical, and social activities.

During the course of the studies, 74,700 participants developed ACD, 2848 developed AD, and 1423 developed VD.

Subgroup analyses showed a reduced risk for ACD for physical leisure activities (relative risk [RR], .83; 95% CI, .78-.88), as well as for cognitive (RR, .77; 95% CI, .68-.87) and social (RR, .93; 95% CI, .87-.99) activities.

There was also a reduced risk for AD with physical (RR, .87; 95% CI, .78-.96) and cognitive (RR, .66; 95% CI, .52-.85) leisure activities and a reduced risk for VD with physical activities (RR, .67; 95% CI, .53-.85).

However, this review did not show a cause-and-effect relationship and that ,so further research is needed in this area to understand how engaging in these activities may be beneficial for the brain.


Sizhen Su, Le Shi, Yongbo Zheng, Yankun Sun, Xiaolin Huang, Anyi Zhang, Jianyu Que, Xinyu, Sun, Jie Shi, Yanping Bao, Jiahui Deng, Lin Lu, (August 10, 2022). Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Academy of Neurology. Retrieved from : 


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