Associations between cognitively stimulating leisure activities, cognitive function and age-related cognitive decline

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2015 Apr;30(4):422-30. doi: 10.1002/gps.4155. Epub 2014 Jul 3.


Objectives: Emerging literature suggests that lifestyle factors may play an important role in reducing age-related cognitive decline. There have, however, been few studies investigating the role of cognitively stimulating leisure activities in maintaining cognitive health. This study sought to identify changes in cognitive performance with age and to investigate associations of cognitive performance with several key cognitively stimulating leisure activities.

Method: Over 65,000 participants provided demographic and lifestyle information and completed tests of grammatical reasoning, spatial working memory, verbal working memory and episodic memory.

Results: Regression analyses suggested that frequency of engaging in Sudoku or similar puzzles was significantly positively associated with grammatical reasoning, spatial working memory and episodic memory scores. Furthermore, for participants aged under 65 years, frequency of playing non-cognitive training computer games was also positively associated with performance in the same cognitive domains. The results also suggest that grammatical reasoning and episodic memory are particularly vulnerable to age-related decline. Further investigation to determine the potential benefits of participating in Sudoku puzzles and non-cognitive computer games is indicated, particularly as they are associated with grammatical reasoning and episodic memory, cognitive domains found to be strongly associated with age-related cognitive decline.

Conclusions: Results of this study have implications for developing improved guidance for the public regarding the potential value of cognitively stimulating leisure activities. The results also suggest that grammatical reasoning and episodic memory should be targeted in developing appropriate outcome measures to assess efficacy of future interventions, and in developing cognitive training programmes to prevent or delay cognitive decline.

Keywords: activities; age; cognition; decline; function.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities / psychology*
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Spatial Memory
  • United Kingdom
  • Video Games
  • Young Adult