Do you ever complain about how busy and hectic your life is? Your to-do list is a mile-long. You spend your day running from place to place. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
If you’ve ever worried about how this busyness might affect your health, here’s some reassuring news: the results of a recent study showed that older adults who lead busy lives tend to perform better on tests of cognitive function than their less busy peers.
The research, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, is part of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study (DLBS), which was designed to assess cognition and brain health, structure, and function in healthy adults. 330 healthy adults ages 50-89 from the DLBS participated in the current study on busyness.
The participants were administered a questionnaire regarding their daily lifestyle to assess their level of busyness. They responded to questions such as:
- How busy are you during an average day?
- How often do you have too many things to do each day to actually get them all done?
- How often do you have so many things to do that you go to bed later than your regular bedtime?
Each participant also underwent a series of neuropsychological tests to measure their cognitive performance. The researchers examined five core cognitive constructs—processing speed, working memory, episodic memory, reasoning, and crystallized knowledge.
The results showed that the busier the participants were, the better their cognitive function. A busier lifestyle was associated with superior processing speed of the brain, working memory, reasoning, and vocabulary. The strongest association existed between busyness and episodic memory, or the ability to recall distinct events from one’s past. The findings were consistent across the entire span of ages and education levels.
The research team warns that their data does not lead to the conclusion that busyness causes better cognition. While that is one possibility, it’s also possible that people with better cognition are capable of participating in more activities and tend to seek out a busy lifestyle.
A factor that the researchers believe could possibly mediate the relationship between busyness and cognition is new learning. Those leading busy lives may have more opportunities to learn new things – they’re more likely to be exposed to new information and different types situations from day to day. Previous research supports the theory that new learning enhances cognitive function.
So don’t let your busy life get you down. Focus instead on all the good it might be doing for your brain.
Festini, Sara B. “The Busier the Better: Greater Busyness Is Associated with Better Cognition.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 17 May 2016.
News release, Frontiers