Mental, physical and social components in leisure activities equally contribute to decrease dementia risk

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2006;21(2):65-73. doi: 10.1159/000089919. Epub 2005 Nov 23.


Background: There is accumulating evidence in the literature that leisure engagement has a beneficial effect on dementia. Most studies have grouped activities according to whether they were predominantly mental, physical or social. Since many activities contain more than one component, we aimed to verify the effect of all three major components on the dementia risk, as well as their combined effect.

Methods: A mental, social and physical component score was estimated for each activity by the researchers and a sample of elderly persons. The correlation between the ratings of the authors and the means of the elderly subjects' ratings was 0.86. The study population consisted of 776 nondemented subjects, aged 75 years and above, living in Stockholm, Sweden, who were still nondemented after 3 years and were followed for 3 more years to detect incident dementia cases.

Results: Multi-adjusted relative risks (RRs) of dementia for subjects with higher mental, physical and social component score sums were 0.71 (95% CI: 0.49-1.03), 0.61 (95% CI: 0.42-0.87) and 0.68 (95% CI: 0.47-0.99), respectively. The most beneficial effect was present for subjects with high scores in all or in two of the components (RR of dementia = 0.53; 95% CI: 0.36-0.78).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that a broad spectrum of activities containing more than one of the components seems to be more beneficial than to be engaged in only one type of activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Social Behavior*