Playing Scrabble or other “thinking” board games is being shown by modern medical science to have many health benefits. No matter what your age, “brain sports” such as Scrabble have been proven to be of particular benefit for many aspects of human mental health.
At the simplest and most obvious end of the spectrum, the social aspects of Scrabble and other board games can be a preventative or even a treatment for loneliness, depression and social phobia.
At the other end of the spectrum, a study from the University of Southern California and published in the respected “Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences” shows that mentally stimulating recreational activities in early and middle adulthood is strongly associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in later life.
A similar study by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging in 2002 studied 700 dementia-free people aged 65 and older for a period of 4.5 years. It compared the level of active cognitive activities regularly performed by the study participants, such as card games, checkers, crossword puzzles, reading books and visiting museums. The NIH reached a conclusion that those with the highest levels of cognitive activities in their lifestyle had a 47% reduced risk of future Alzheimer’s disease than those who had the least levels of cognitive activities in the lifestyles.
A 2008 study by the University of NSW published in the renown journal “Public Library of Science” adds that, in addition to Alzheimer’s Disease, the onset of other degenerative brain diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s Diseases can also be delayed or prevented with these forms of mental activity. It found that a brain region known as the hippocampus, known to shrink with age and particularly with these three degenerative brain diseases, has only half the rate of shrinkage in people engaged in active mental tasks as in those with low levels of mental stimulation.
The evidence suggests a “Use it or Lose it” basis to human cognitive health.
If it is too late for prevention, research from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that has been published in the “Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry” still has some encouraging news. They have demonstrated that computer and internet based mentally stimulating activities such as games can play a useful role alongside medication in improving the cognitive function of Alzheimer’s patients. That is another plus for Scrabble, the various internet versions of which have grown the game into one of the most popular online today.
Irrespective of Alzheimer’s Disease or other form of dementia, cognitive decline is a very common phenomena as we advance in years. Medical research teaches us clearly that keeping one’s brain active with puzzles, games, study and similar means are an effective method of slowing the rate of age-related cognitive decline. Furthermore, the earlier in life one begins to regularly participate in such active brain games and pursuits, the longer it takes before any cognitive decline even begins.
The lesson is clear. Play Scrabble and other brain-games regularly to enhance and maintain your overall mental health throughout life, and to help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of age-related cognitive decline in your later life.