If you're having a hectic day with too much to do, then science could have some good news for you, with a new study finding that older adults with busy lifestyles show better cognitive function than their less busy peers.
The study, by the University of Texas at Dallas, looked at 330 healthy participants aged between 50 and 89 as part of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, one of the most in-depth and comprehensive studies of age-related brain function in healthy adults in the USA.
Participants were all surveyed about their daily lifestyle and underwent neuropsychological testing to measure their cognitive performance.
The results showed that at all the ages participating a busy daily lifestyle was associated with improved working memory, reasoning, and vocabulary, and a superior processing speed of the brain.
There was also a particularly strong association between a busy lifestyle and an improved episodic memory — the ability to remember specific events in the past.
The results were also seen regardless of the participants' education.
"Our findings offer encouragement to maintain active, busy lifestyles throughout middle and late adulthood."
However commenting on the findings Sara Festini, lead author of the study, did warn that the team could not conclude yet that busyness directly improves cognition, and that other factors may also be involved such as individuals who already have better cognitive function seek out a busier lifestyle, or that busyness and cognition reinforce and strengthen each other.
But the team also added that busyness could improve cognitive health by facilitating new learning, with a recent study from the Center for Vital Longevity showing that learning difficult new skills, such as digital photography, or quilting, can boost episodic memory.
Busy people could be improving their cognitive health by exposing themselves to more information in their daily life, and more opportunities to learn, leading the team to conclude that, "Overall, our findings offer encouragement to maintain active, busy lifestyles throughout middle and late adulthood."
The team also commented that they were surprised so little research has been carried out to examine a possible link between busyness and cognitive function, especially considering how busy modern life can be, and now suggest more research be done in this area.
The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.