The study suggests that older adults exhibit greater mental well-being despite cognitive decline

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Despite showing signs of poorer cognitive performance, older adults tend to have greater mental well-being than younger adults, according to a new study.

A study published this month in Psychology and Aging by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine indicates that adults over 60 showed greater mental well-being but worse cognitive performance than younger adults. Adults in their 20s tended to have more experience with anxiety, depression, and loneliness than older adults.

The researchers sampled 62 healthy young adults aged 20 and 54 and 54 healthy seniors over the age of 60. The study analyzed participants’ mental health and subjected them to different cognitive tasks, using electroencephalography (EEG) to measure their brain activity. Anxiety, depression, and loneliness were the mental well-being factors measured in each participant.

Older adults had a harder time completing cognitive tests, but showed higher levels of mental well-being. The EEG results showed that the older participants had more activity in their anterior area of ​​the network in default mode, which is the part of the brain where individuals can daydream or ruminate. The default mode is typically suppressed when an individual is focused on an activity.

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The study experiment showed that older adults tended to have poorer cognitive abilities but greater mental well-being than younger participants.

The study experiment showed that older adults tended to have poorer cognitive abilities but greater mental well-being than younger participants.
(iStock)

“We wanted to better understand the interaction between cognition and mental health during aging and whether they are based on the activation of similar or different brain areas,” said Jyoti Mishra, PhD, director of NEATLabs and senior author of the study, in a statement. .

“Networking in default mode is useful in other contexts, helping us process the past and imagine the future, but it is distracting when you try to focus on the present to tackle a challenging task with speed and precision,” added Mishra.

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On the other hand, younger adults showed greater activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, resulting in improved performance for cognitive tests. The cortex is the part of the brain with the executive control system and tends to degrade over time with age, according to the researchers. However, seniors who performed well the cognitive tasks used in their lower frontal cortex, the area of ​​the brain used to avoid distractions.

“We tend to think of people in their twenties as at the peak of their cognitive performance, but it’s also a very stressful time in their life, so when it comes to mental well-being, there may be lessons to be learned from seniors and their brains,” Mishra said. .

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