The structure and function of brain cells continues to change throughout life, and most of its aspects decline as we age in response to a number of lifestyle factors. As these cells lose their ability to communicate with each other, our ability to retain memory disintegrates. But, is there a way to stop it from happening, or at least slow it down a bit?

Yes, and that’s by keeping a positive outlook in life.

A new study at Association for Psychological Science has revealed that people who lead a cheerful, enthusiastic life full of pride and joy are less likely to experience memory decline as they age. Psychologists have a term for it, and it’s called “positive affect”. So the more a person experiences a positive affect, the more he or she is likely to retain memories, of which some could even last a lifetime.

happy people are less likely to experience memory decline with age

For the study, the team looked at data from 991 adults who took part in a national study conducted three times between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014.

Researchers then gauged the reports on a range of positive emotions the participants had experienced over the past 30 days. They also asked participants to take part in a memory test which consisted of recalling words immediately after a presentation and again 15 minutes later.

After successfully examining the association between positive affect and memory decline, while accounting for factors like age, gender, education, depression, negative affect, and extraversion, they found that individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a better memory retention over the course of almost a decade compared to those that had experienced lesser positive affect.

Positive affectivity has been tied to a number of favourable health outcomes, including lowering the levels of stress, minimizing severity of depression, promoting longevity and other physiological functioning. And this new finding adds to a burgeoning area of research on the role of positive affect in healthy aging.

The study entitled Positive Affect Is Associated With Less Memory Decline: Evidence From a 9-Year Longitudinal Study” has been published in the journal Psychological Science.