A study published in medical journal Neurology, found that people who think that they are in poor health are more likely to develop dementia later in life. Among study participants with no cognitive problems, those who rated their health as poor were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as those who rated their health as good.

People age 65 years or older were asked to rate their health and were followed for nearly seven years. Of  8,169 people at the beginning of the study, 618 people developed dementia.  Thus, the risk of dementia was 70 % higher in people rating their health as poor – and 34 % higher in people rating their health as fair compared to those who rated their health as good.

Surprisingly, the relationship between people’s own health ratings and dementia development was even stronger for those without memory or cognition problems or issues.

Speculation about causes behind these results includes the possibility that the degree of social (networking and activities) involvement – where higher levels of social activities are associated with a decreased risk of dementia – might be involved.

For example, thinking you are in ill health might limit your interest in social behaviors, thus limiting social interaction and in turn accelerating the dementia process.

Further research into this area might someday result in a low cost, simple tool for doctors to determine a person’s potential risk of dementia, especially for people with no symptoms or memory problems.  A prescription for ‘being social’ might just turn out to be a low cost way to increase memory fitness and therefore reduce the burden of dementia.