The study, a joint venture by researchers from The Stress Research Institute, University of Calgary, Vrije Universiteit Brussel,  University of Leuven, and Swansea University followed 1001 Swedish citizens who all retired in 2010 for five years to assess the development of their cognitive problems. These 1001 individuals were divided into three groups based on their engagement in volunteering: retired workers who were constantly engaged in volunteering, retired workers who were sporadically engaged in volunteering, and retired workers who were never engaged in volunteering . The cognitive health of these individuals was assessed repeatedly by means of questionnaires, physician diagnoses, and medication use.

The study found that retired workers who were constantly engaged in volunteering (this implies volunteering for at least one hour per week) reported fewer cognitive problems such as problems concentrating, remembering, or thinking clearly, compared to retired workers who were sporadically or never engaged in volunteering. In addition, the researchers found that retired workers who constantly engaged in volunteering were remarkably less likely to be diagnosed with dementia and prescribed an anti-dementia treatment compared to retired workers who were sporadically or never engaged in volunteering.

Delaying dementia onset by a few years does not only have enormous benefits for the health and social care sectors, it also has huge implications for the psychological well-being of the patients and their loved-ones. Given the positive impact of volunteering for the cognitive health of retired workers, the research team recommends that retired workers engage in volunteering for at least one hour per week. 

The full article in PLOS One