Can friends who listen help protect your memory and thinking skills?

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Having a good listener in your life might have a much bigger effect on health than just making you feel better when you need to sort out your feelings. That type of support might also contribute to better cognition in our later years, according to a study published online Aug. 16, 2021, by JAMA Network Open. Researchers from Harvard and other institutions evaluated almost 2,200 participants’ self-reported social support information, as well as psychological tests and scans that measured participants’ brain volume. (Brain shrinkage can be a sign of aging or changes related to dementia.) Compared with people who didn’t have good listeners in their lives, those who always had people there to listen had more cognitive resilience — better thinking skills than expected for the amount of decreases they had in brain volume. Researchers suggest that having someone to talk to may ease stress and brain inflammation and promote chemicals that boost brain health and keep you sharper, longer.


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