(CNN) – Social engagement has been linked to better cognitive function at age 50 by researchers in the United Kingdom.
A team at the University of Southampton examined data from the British National Child Development study, which has followed several thousand people born in 1958 since birth.
Researchers found that most participants’ cognitive abilities either remained the same or declined between the ages of 11 and 50. For about a quarter of them, though, brain performance actually improved.
Researchers say those who scored highest on cognitive tests at age 50 had higher levels of social engagement over time.
Analysts said all forms of civic involvement, including volunteering, neighborhood watch, and even working with a political party were linked to better brain performance in middle age. The team noted that physical activity, higher education levels, and being female were also linked to better brain function.
The association between improved cognition at age 50 and social engagement remained even after adjusting for factors like health, socio-economic status and gender.
The study was published in the open access journal, “BMC Psychology.”