Have a positive outlook on life? It may help you hold on to memories as you age

  • Memory loss is an unpleasant reality for many elderly people
  • There is no cure for diseases involving memory loss, such as dementia
  • Researchers found that being enthusiastic and cheerful could decrease memory decline in old age

The memory loss that often accompanies old age is unsettling, especially since there is no known cure or disease-modifying treatment. Combating memory decline is therefore of great importance, especially among ageing populations. 

Research has shown that positive affect (feeling enthusiastic, attentive, proud, active) is associated with improved health, but also that positive affect and cognitive ability tend to decrease over time.

A recent study investigated the relationship between positive affect and memory (immediate and delayed recall).


A team of researchers drew information from a nine-year longitudinal study that involved a national sample of 991 middle-aged and older US adults.

The study spanned three periods (1995 and 1996; 2004 and 2006; 2013 and 2014), requiring participants to partake in assessments where they recalled positive emotions that they experienced during the prior month.

The last two assessments tested participants' memory performance, where they had to recall words either immediately after being presented with them, or after a delay of 15 minutes. 

Researchers used the information gathered from recalling positive experiences and the tests of memory performance to examine the association of positive affect and memory decline.


According to Claudia Haase, senior author of the paper, the results of the study show that memory does in fact decline with age.

She went on to say: “However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade.

”These findings open up the possibility for future study to identify how positive affect positively influences memory in older populations.

Image credit: iStock

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