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Study Suggests Older Adults Show Greater Mental Well-Being Despite Cognitive Decline


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Despite showing signs of lower cognitive performance, older adults tend to have higher mental well-being compared to younger adults, according to a new studio.

A study published this month in Psychology and Aging by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine indicates that adults over the age of 60 showed greater mental well-being but worse cognitive performance than younger adults. Adults in their 20s tended to have more experience with anxiety, depression and loneliness than older people.

The researchers sampled 62 healthy young adults in their 20s and 54 healthy older adults in their 60s. The study looked at the mental health of the participants and asked them to perform various cognitive tasks, using electroencephalography (EEG) to measure their brain activity. Anxiety, depression and loneliness were the mental well-being factors measured in each participant.

Older adults had more trouble completing tests of cognition but showed higher levels of mental well-being. The EEG results showed that the older participants had more activity in their anterior area of ​​the default network, which is the part of the brain where people may daydream or ruminate. Default mode is usually suppressed when an individual is concentrating on a task.

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The study experiment showed that older adults tended to have poorer cognitive abilities but higher mental well-being than younger participants.
(iStock)

“We wanted to better understand the interaction between cognition and mental health throughout aging, and whether they depend on the activation of similar or different brain areas,” said Jyoti Mishra, PhD, director of NEATLabs and lead author of the study, in a declaration.

“The default mode network is useful in other contexts, helping us process the past and imagine the future, but distracting when you’re trying to focus on the present to tackle a demanding task quickly and accurately,” added Mishra.

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On the other hand, younger adults showed more activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which resulted in better performance on tests of cognition. The cortex is the part of the brain with the executive control system, and it tends to degrade over time, according to the researchers. However, the older adults who performed well on the cognitive tasks used their inferior frontal cortex, the area of ​​the brain used to avoid distractions.

“We tend to think of people in their twenties as being at their cognitive peak, but it’s also a very stressful time in their lives, so when it comes to mental well-being, there may be lessons to be learned from older adults.” and their brains,” Mishra said.

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