Arts and crafts activities are good for you

Arts and crafts activities may be able to ward off dementia

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If you have ever wanted to try your hand at pottery, woodcarving, basketry or knitting, a new study suggests that doing so might be good for your health, especially your mental health.

man-woodworking-150408Middle-age and older adults who do arts and crafts activities and socialize may reduce their risk of the thinking and memory problems that can lead to dementia, the study found.

Researchers have followed 256 people whose average age was 87 at the beginning of the study. Over four years, 121 participants developed mild cognitive impairment, a condition that means having thinking and memory problems, but problems that are not severe enough to affect daily life.

The people who engaged in artistic activities such as painting or drawing, in both middle age and when they were 85 and older, were 73 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not engage in artistic activities.

The people who engaged in craft activities such as woodworking or pottery were 45 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not participate in such activities, the researchers found.

The study also found that the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment was also 55 percent lower among those who socialized in middle age and when they were older, compared with those who did not socialize and people who used a computer when they were 85 and older were 53 percent less likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment than those who did not use a computer.

It is not completely clear why engaging in these activities appears to help lower a person's risk of mild cognitive impairment but is it is likely that these activities maintain the function of neurons.

The new findings are very much consistent with the results of previous studies that have also demonstrated the benefits of cognitively stimulating and social activities and such activities have been shown to lower the rate of cognitive decline, or slow the development of Alzheimer's disease.

While medical science thus far cannot cure mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease, there is increasing evidence that disease risk may be modifiable and it would appear that certain activities, such as arts and crafts, among others, can help do so.

The study was published April 8, 2015 in the journal Neurology.

© 2015