The curious way to reduce the risk of dementia, according to the American Academy of Neurology.

The curious way to reduce the risk of dementia, according to the American Academy of Neurology.

Living closer to outdoor spaces and water fountains may reduce older people’s risk of suffering from severe psychological distress.which can lead to mild cognitive impairment and dementiaaccording to a preliminary study presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Severe psychological distress

Researchers defined severe psychological distress as mental health problems that require treatment and have a moderate to severe effect on a person’s ability to participate in work, school, and social situations.

“Given that we lack methods of prevention or effective treatments for mild cognitive impairment and dementiaWe need to be creative in addressing these problems,” says Solmaz Amiri of the Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine at Washington State University in Spokane, Washington.

Pregnant woman.

“Our hope is that this study showing better mental health among people living near parks and water will trigger other studies on how these benefits work and whether this proximity can help prevent or delay mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” she stresses.

Study of more than 40,000 US seniors.

Dementia, alzheimer's.
Dementia, alzheimer’s.

The study included 42,980 people aged 65 and older living in urban areas of Washington state. The researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the participants’ proximity to green spaces, such as public parks, community gardens, and even cemeteries.and blue, such as lakes, reservoirs, large rivers and coastlines.

Participants completed a questionnaire to assess psychological distress. They answered six questions about the frequency with which they felt symptoms of depression and anxiety using a five-point scale ranging from zero, i.e., none of the time, to four, i.e., all of the time.

The survey questions

Questions included such things as how many days they had been unable to work because of psychological distress, how many days their productivity had been reduced by at least half because of distress, and how many times they had sought professional help. Scores ranged from 0 to 24, with a mean score of 2. Participants who scored more than 13 on the test were considered to be suffering from severe psychological distress.


Researchers reported that. about 2% of the participants suffered severe psychological distress.. Of the total number of participants, 70% lived within 800 meters of a green zone and 60% within 800 meters of a blue zone.

The benefits of parks

An elderly man and woman, sitting on a bench and wearing masks, in Manzanares Park.
An elderly man and woman, seated on a bench and wearing a mask, in Manzanares Park.
Eduardo Parra – Europa Press

People who lived within 800 meters of green or blue spaces. had a 17% lower risk of psychological disorders. severe than those living more than 800 meters from green or blue spaces.

Of those living within 800 meters of parks and fountains, 1.3% suffered from severe psychological disorders, compared with 1.5% of those living more than 800 meters away.

“Our hope is that this study can help inform public health policies in the future, from where residential facilities are located to programs to improve the mental health outcomes of people living in long-term care facilities or nursing homes,” concludes Amiri.

Kayleigh Williams