Can museums help prevent dementia?

New study suggests visiting museums may be a promising psychosocial activity to support the prevention of dementia | The British Journal of Psychiatry | via The Mental Elf 

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has revealed that people who visited museums often were less likely to develop dementia. In the research, a large cohort of people 50 years-old and older, as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) was used as a sample and tracked across 10 years. The participants in the study did not show any clinical symptoms of dementia at baseline.


Two main measures were used:

  1. Firstly, the participants had to complete a self-report scale regarding the frequency they were visiting museums and art galleries, varying from “never” to “twice a month or more”.
  2. Secondly, the incidence of dementia was based on a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or on a score above 3.38 on the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE).

The sample consisted of 3,911 adults, equally divided to males and females, and the mean age was 64 years-old. 6.3% developed dementia during the follow-up period. A third of participants indicated that they never visited a museum, but around 1 in 5 reported attending once or twice a year and a further 1 in 5 reported attending every few months or more.

The incidence rate of dementia was higher than average for people who never go to museums, lower than average for people who make a few visits per year, while the lowest rate was found for those who frequently visit museums.

Other cognitive activities were taken under consideration by the authors, but were not significantly associated with the occurrence of dementia. Thus, the effect of museum-attendance is thought to be unique and distinct from other activities that have been suggested.

Full research: Fancourt, D., Steptoe, A., & Cadar, D. | Cultural engagement and cognitive reserve: Museum attendance and dementia incidence over a 10-year period |  The British Journal of Psychiatry | Volume 213, Issue 5 | November 2018 | pp. 661-663

Further detail at The Mental Elf

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