Maintaining mental health during the aging process is seen by many as the holy grail of health and well-being. New research finds that participation in community groups and organizations can maintain mental health even after physical health has deteriorated.

In particular, ongoing members of religious organizations showed higher levels of personal growth than those who were not. The research also found lesser hikes in depressive symptoms among men steadily involved in recreational associations, such as hobby or discussion groups.

Study authors, Emily Greenfield and Nadine Marks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison used survey data to track changes in respondents’ physical, psychological, and social functioning over a five-year period. Thus, they were able to observe whether or not those who developed physical impairments also experienced similar declines in mental health.

The research is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences (Vol. 62B, No. 1).

This study is noteworthy because it shows community participation — and the subsequent building of psychosocial resources — to be especially important in the face of aging-related challenges.

Support for the project was provided by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Aging.

Source: The Gerontological Society of America