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Positive affect linked to less memory decline

In a new study from the Association for Psychological Science, researchers found that a positive affect is linked to a lower risk of age-related memory decline.

The extent to which an individual experiences enthusiasm, joy, happiness, and excitement – referred to as positive affectivity – has an influence on how well information is retained throughout life.

The research adds to a growing collection of evidence that positive affectivity contributes to healthier aging. Previous studies have suggested that a positive outlook can lead many desirable life outcomes, such as more marital satisfaction, improved well-being, greater cognitive performance, and the delayed onset of disease.

The study was focused on data from nearly 1,000 middle-aged and older adults who participated in a national study that was conducted over the course of a decade in three phases: between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014.

For each trial, the participants reported on a range of positive emotions they had experienced over the past 30 days. During the final two assessments, participants were also tested for memory performance. The tests involved recalling words immediately after they were presented and then again 15 minutes later.

The researchers examined the association between positive affect and memory decline, while accounting for additional factors such as age, gender, education, depression, negative affect, and extraversion.

Study senior author Professor Claudia Haase said that the findings confirmed that memory did, in fact, decline with age among the study participants.

“However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade,” added study last author Emily Hittner.

According to the researchers, further studies are needed to understand the pathways that may connect positive affect and memory, such as physical health or social interactions.

The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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