Why Having a Good Listener Can Boost Brain Health

By Christine Macahilig
December 03, 2021

Social isolation is associated with about a 50 percent increased risk of dementia for many adults age 50 or older. A study conducted at NYU Langone Health suggests that having a friend or two you can count on to lend you an ear when you need to talk may help improve brain health.

Researchers analyzed data of 2,171 people from the Framingham Heart Study. The participants, who had an average age of 63, reported on how available supportive social interactions were to them. These included listening, good advice, and love and affection. They also reported the amount of contact they had with the people they were closest to, and the emotional support they received. Their MRI scans and neuropsychological assessments were then examined to determine the effect social support had on cerebral brain volume and cognitive performance.

The results suggest that of all the supportive social interactions, having someone available to listen to them more often was greatly associated with higher cognitive resilience, while those with low listener availability experienced lower cognitive performance. Having cognitive resilience can help reduce brain aging and a person’s risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

"This study adds to growing evidence that people can take steps, either for themselves or the people they care about most, to increase the odds they'll slow down cognitive aging or prevent the development of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, something that is all the more important given that we still don't have a cure for the disease," says lead researcher Joel Salinas, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

You May Also Like: