In 2018, 1 out of every 9 Americans aged 45 and older reported a cognitive decline, but a positive outlook could be the best defense. Consider the national study published earlier this year, Positive Affect Is Associated With Less Memory Decline: Evidence From a 9-Year Longitudinal Study, which drew on a national sample of nearly 1,000 middle-aged-and-up Americans. For this project, researchers analyzed data over a 25-year span of time over three sessions, leading up to 2014.

The study worked like this: tested individuals reported on the positive emotions they had experienced over the past 30 days. In the last three assessments, they were also tested on their memory, where they were asked to recall words from a presentation, then to repeat this task 15 minutes later.

Now, memory decline was observed in most cases of these aging Americans, which is unsurprising. However, the study’s abstract concludes, “Results revealed that positive affect was associated with less memory decline across 9 years when analyses controlled for age, gender, education, depression, negative affect, and extraversion.” 

If your attitude toward the world is good, you will obtain good results. If your attitude is excellent, excellent will your results. - Earl Nightingale

That phrase – “positive affect” – refers to the tendency or disposition of some individuals to experience states of positive emotional experience, usually marked by things like enthusiasm, energetic expression, and general cheerfulness. 

The relationship between positive affect and cognition has been a topic of interest in the field of psychology for many years now, and we should certainly be considering its potential relationship to age-related memory decline.

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