Contrary to popular belief, puzzles like crosswords and sudoku will not stop dementia or slow down mental decline in old age, a new study has found.
The researchers found that doing the puzzles will boost mental ability, but it won’t slow down or stop the mental decline many people experience as they get old.
What it can do, though, is to give people a higher ‘starting point’, say the team from Aberdeen University and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Previously, studies have found that activities such as doing puzzles, reading from an early age, playing board games and playing a musical instrument are associated with a lower risk of dementia.
The new study, published in the BMJ on Monday, investigated the link between intellectual engagement and mental ability in later life based on 498 people born in 1936.
Researchers used data from the archives of the Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE) which had maintained population-based records of the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1947.
All the respondents had taken a group intelligence test called the Moray House Test at the age of 11 and took part in memory and mental processing speed testing up to five times over a 15-year period.
Dr Roger Staff, honorary lecturer at the Aberdeen University and head of medical physics at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said that, although puzzles could enhance mental ability, they do not protect against decline.
Dr Staff said, ‘Personality may govern how much effort older people put into such activities and why.’