Skip to main content

Creativity, leisure activities, social engagement and cognitive impairment: the AGES-Reykjavík study



Participation in leisure activities and extensive social network have been associated with lower risk of cognitive impairment (CI) and dementia.


We examined whether leisure activities (cognitive solitary, cognitive group, social, physical, or creative activities) and social involvement are associated with less incidence of CI or dementia.


Analyses were performed from data of 2933 cognitively intact individuals at baseline included in the AGES-REYKJAVIK study. Odds ratios (OR) were calculated for incident CI and dementia in relation to cognitive individual, cognitive group, social, physical, and creative leisure activities as well as social networks. Models were adjusted for a number of known risk factors for cognitive decline.


In 5 years, 12% of the cohort were diagnosed with CI or dementia. All leisure activities were associated with reduced likelihood of cognitive decline in the raw model, but in adjusted models, cognitive solitary [OR 0.49 (Confidence Interval (CI) 0.38–0.64)], cognitive group [OR 0.50 (CI 0.30–0.82)], and creative activities [OR 0.53 (CI 0.35–0.83)] were significantly associated with less cognitive decline. Analyses examining creative leisure activities independently, controlling for all other activities, suggested individuals participating in creative activities exhibited less CI [OR 0.64 (CI 0.41–0.98)]. Among social networks variables, frequency of meeting with friends and relatives was associated with reduced likelihood of CI [OR 0.49 (CI 0.31–0.75)].


Cognitive and creative leisure activities and frequent gatherings with friends and relatives are associated with reduced incidence of CI in this older cohort.


Creative leisure activities might have special benefit for cognitive ability.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Barnett JH, Hachinski W, Blackwell AD (2013) Cognitive health begins at conception. BMC Med 11:246

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Vemuri P, Lesnick TG, Przybelski SA et al (2014) Association of lifetime intellectual enrichment with cognitive decline in older population. JAMA Neurol 71:1017–1024

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Stern Y (2009) Cognitive reserve. Neuropsychologia 47:2015–2028

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Fratiglione L, Paillard-Borg S, Winblad B (2004) An active and socially integrated lifestyle in late life might protect against dementia. Lancet Neurol 3:343–353

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Yates AL, Ziser S, Spector A et al (2016) Cognitive leisure activities and future risk of cognitive impairment and dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Psychogeriatr 28:1791–1808

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Fratiglione L, Wang HX, Ericson K et al (2000) Influence of social networks on occurrence of dementia: a community-based longitudinal study. Lancet 355:1315–1319

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Amieva H, Stoykova R, Matharan F et al (2010) What aspects of social network are protective for dementia? Not the quantity but the quality of social interactions is protective up to 15 years later. Psychosom Med 72:905–911

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Seeman TE, Lusignolo TM, Albert M et al (2001) Social relationships, social support, and patterns of cognitive aging in healthy, high-functioning older adults: Mac Arthur studies of successful aging. Health Psychol 20:243–255

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Evans IEM, Martyr A, Collins R et al (2019) Social isolation and cognitive function in later life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis 70:S119-144

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bennett DA, Schneider JA, Tang Y et al (2006) The effects of social networks on the relation between Alzheimer´s disease pathology and level of cognitive function in old people: a longitudinal cohort study. Lancet 5:406–412

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Green FA, Rebok G, Lyketsos CG (2008) Influence of social network characteristics on cognition and functional status with aging. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 23:972–978

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Eisele M, Zimmermann T, Köhler M et al (2012) Influence of social support on cognitive change and mortality in old age: results from the prospective Multicenter Cohort Study AgeCoDe. BMC Geriatr.

  13. Katz D, Patel MD, Palta P et al (2016) Social support and cognition in a community based cohort: the atherosclerotic risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Age Ageing 45:457–480

    Google Scholar 

  14. Krell-Roesch J, Vemuri P, Pink A et al (2017) Association between mentally stimulating activities in late life and the outcome of incident mild cognitive impairment, with an analysis of the APOE ϵ4 genotype. JAMA Neurol 74:332–338

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Roberts OR, Cha RH, Mielke MM et al (2015) Risk and protective factors for cognitive impairment in persons aged 85 years and older. Neurology 84:1–7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. James BD, Wilson RS, Barnes LL et al (2011) Late-life social activity and cognitive decline in old age. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 17:998–1005

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Wang JYJ, Zhou DHD, Li J et al (2006) Leisure activity and risk of cognitive impairment: the Chongqing Aging Study. Neurology 66:911–913

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Akbarly TN, Porter F, Fustinoni S et al (2009) Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. Neurology 73:854–861

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Sawyer K (2011) The cognitive neuroscience of creativity: a critical review. Creat Res J 23:137–154

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Then FS, Luck T, Heser K et al (2017) Which types of mental work demands may be associated with reduced risk of dementia? Alzheimer’s Dementia 13:431–440

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Colombo B, Antonietti A, Daneau B (2018) The relationship between cognitive reserve and creativity. A study on American Aging Population. Front Psychol.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  22. Runcho MA (2001) Creativity and cognition. Int Encycl Soc Behav Sci.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Verghese J, Lipton RB, Katz MJ et al (2003) Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. NEJM 384:2508–2516

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Wang HX, Karp A, Winnblad B et al (2002) Late-life engagement in social and leisure activities in associated with decreased risk of dementia: a longitudinal study from the Kungsholmen Project. Am J Epidemiol 155:1081–1087

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Harris TB, Launer LJ, Eiriksdottir G et al (2007) Age, gene/environment susceptibility—Reykjavik Study: multidisciplinary applied phenomics. Am J Epidemiol 165:1076–1087

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Folstein MF, Folstein SE, McHugh PR (1975) ‟The Mini-mental state”. A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinicians. J Psychiatr Res 1212:189–198

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Wechsler D (1995) Wechsler adult intelligence scale. Manual. Psychological Corporation, New York

    Google Scholar 

  28. Reitan R (1958) Validity of the trail making test as an indicator of brain organic damage. Percept Mot Skills 8:271–272

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Rey A (1964) L´examen clinique en psychologie. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  30. American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edn. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC

    Book  Google Scholar 

  31. Baumgart M, Snyder HM, Carrillo CMC et al (2015) Summary of the evidence on modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia: A population-based perspective. Alzheimer’s Dementia 6:718–726

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Manor O, Matthews S, Power C (2000) Dichotomous or categorical response? Analysing self-rated health and lifetime social class. Int J Epidemiol 29:149–157

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Sheik JL, Yesavage JA (1986) Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS); recent evidence of and development of a shorter version. Clin Gerontol 5:165-173S

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Siggeirsdottir K, Aspelund T, Jonsson BY et al (2012) Effect of vertebral fractures on function, quality of life and hospitalisation the AGES-Reykjavik Study. Age Ageing 41:351–357

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Fisher D, Li CM, Chiu MS et al (2014) Impairments in hearing and vision impact on mortality in older people: the AGES-Reykjavik Study. Age Ageing 43:69–76

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Fancourt D, Steptoe A (2018) Cultural engagement predicts changes in cognitive function on older adults over a10 year period: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Sci Rep 8:1038.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Pfeiffer et al (2013) Towards a neuroscience of social interaction EDITORIAL ARTICLE. Front Hum Neurosci.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  38. Przyrembel M, Smallwood J, Pauen M et al (2012) Illuminating the dark matter of social neuroscience: considering the problem of social interaction from philosophical, psychological and neuroscientific perspectives. Review article. Front Hum Neurosci.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  39. McHugh Powers J, Tang J, Lawlor B et al (2016) Mediators of the relationship between social activities and cognitive function among older Irish adults: results for the Irish longitudinal study on ageing. Aging Mental Health 27:1–6

    Google Scholar 

  40. Chang M, Jonsson PV, Snaedal J et al (2010) The effect of midlife physical activity on cognitive function among older adults: AGES-Reykjavik study. J Gerontol 12:1369–1374

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Sheung-Tak C (2016) Cognitive reserve and the prevention of dementia: the role of physical and cognitive activities. Curr Psychiatry Rep 18:85

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Bassuk SS, Glass TA, Berkman LF (1999) Social disengagement and incident cognitive decline in community dwelling elderly persons. Ann Intern Med 131:165–173

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study was supported by NIH contracts N01-AG-1-2100 and HHSN27120120022C, the NIA Intramural Research Program, Hjartavernd (the Icelandic Heart Association), and the Althingi (the Icelandic Parliament).


The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Helga Hansdottir.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval

This study has been approved by the appropriate ethics committee and have therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Informed consent

All persons gave their informed consent prior to entering the study.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hansdottir, H., Jonsdottir, M.K., Fisher, D.E. et al. Creativity, leisure activities, social engagement and cognitive impairment: the AGES-Reykjavík study. Aging Clin Exp Res 34, 1027–1035 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Elderly
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Dementia
  • Leisure activities
  • Social relations
  • Creativity