Writing letters could help stave off dementia, a study has found.


Penmanship and handwritten letters are a casualty of the increasingly digital world, but reviving the dying artform and method of communication could reduce a person’s risk of developing the disease by more than a tenth.

Adult literacy skills such as writing letters, journaling or taking educational classes were found to cut the chance of getting dementia in adults over the age of 70 by 11 per cent.

Various studies have found that keeping the mind and body active are beneficial in ensuring long-term cognitive benefits and staving off any memory issues or disease, with crosswords and puzzles having long been thought of as the best option.

But the latest study, from scientists at Monash University in Australia, found active mental activities (chess, cards or puzzles) reduce the risk of dementia by just 9 per cent.

Six warning signs of dementia© Provided by The Telegraph

Hobbies such as crafts, woodwork and painting lowered dementia risk by 7 per cent, data show, as do passive mental activities like reading newspapers, watching TV or listening to the radio.

But interactions with other people had no benefit, the study found, with social activities and social outings not reducing dementia risk at all.

Dementia is one of Britain’s biggest killers, with one in 10 male deaths caused by the neurodegenerative condition, and one in eight women.

There is no cure and work has long focused on lifestyle factors which may be able to help prevent people getting the condition.

A long-term study of more than 10,000 Australians followed people for more than a decade and had regular check-ups from researchers monitoring their cognitive ability as well as health conditions.

More than 300 people in the study went on to develop dementia, with one in 12 of them being over 85.

“The frequency of computer usage, writing letters and journals, and playing crosswords and puzzles showed an association with reduced dementia risk across men and women,” the study authors write in their paper, published in JAMA Network Open.

“Participation in craftwork, woodwork and metalwork was associated with a lower risk of dementia only in men.”

How to protect yourself from vascular dementia© Provided by The Telegraph

They add that people who are mentally active engage in “greater cognitive stimulation” and the engagement, critical thinking, logical reasoning and social interaction involved may increase resilience in the brain against disease by making the organ work harder.

“Adult literacy comprises class attendance, computer usage, and writing – all of which require the processing and storage of new information, which decelerates neurobiological ageing and protects against dementia,” the study states.

“Older individuals who are highly engaged in adult learning may be more likely to use computers and compose written works as a means to fulfil the learning tasks.”


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