Research finds no link between hobbies and dementia risk

28 October 2020

Research published today (Wednesday 28 October) in the scientific publication Neurology suggests those who lack interest in the world around them are at an increased risk of developing dementia.

Which group of people did researchers look at?

The scientists looked at a group of research volunteers taking part in an existing study.

The Whitehall II study is a long-term health study that recruited people working as civil servants in the 1980s.

At the start of the study, the team used a questionnaire with 13 questions to see how often 6,000 people took part in leisure activities over the previous year.

The activities included gardening, going to the pub and seeing friends.

The scientists then followed the volunteers repeating the questionnaire ten years later and looked to see who developed dementia after nearly two decades.

What did the researchers find?

They found no link between taking part in leisure activities in people’s mid-50s and dementia over nearly two decades.

But they found those who took part in more hobbies by the time they were in their mid-60’s were less likely to develop dementia.

What did our expert say?

Sara commentsDr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Living an active lifestyle is good for many aspects of our health, including our brain. This new study in a group of ex-civil servants found no link between the type or how often people in their mid-50s take part in hobbies and the risk of developing dementia over the next two decades. However, this group of people are not representative of the whole UK population and the types of leisure activity looked at varied greatly.

“The research suggests changes in the participation in leisure activity in your mid-60s may be an early sign of dementia, but not one specific activity was found to be an indicator or a risk factor for the condition.

“With no treatment to slow or stop the diseases that cause dementia, prevention is key, and we need to see more research in this area. In a separate study, scientists have calculated that eliminating 12 modifiable factors could reduce 40% of dementia cases. A healthy lifestyle includes staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, drinking within recommended guidelines, and not smoking.”

Want to read the science paper?

You can by using the link – Neurology: Leisure activity participation and risk of dementia: 18-year follow-up of the Whitehall II Study