Cultural engagement and cognitive reserve: museum attendance and dementia incidence over a 10-year period

Br J Psychiatry. 2018 Nov;213(5):661-663. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2018.129. Epub 2018 Jul 20.


Theories of cognitive reserve, disuse syndrome and stress have suggested that activities that are mentally engaging, enjoyable and socially interactive could be protective against the development of dementia. Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, this study shows that for adults aged 50 and older visiting museums every few months or more was associated with a lower incidence rate of dementia over a 10-year follow-up period compared with less-frequent visiting. This association was independent of demographics, socioeconomic status, health-related variables including sensory impairment, depression, vascular conditions and other forms of community engagement. Visiting museums may be a promising psychosocial activity to support the prevention of dementia.Declaration of interestNone.

Keywords: Dementia; cognitive reserve; cultural engagement; museums; social engagement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognitive Aging / psychology*
  • Cognitive Reserve*
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Museums*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Class
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology