Group Activities May Help Treat Depression and Improve Cognitive Function in Dementia Patients

Depression is common in those living with Alzheimer’s, though it may be difficult to detect because the two diseases share many symptoms. It can also be tough for Alzheimer’s patients to properly explain how they’re feeling. New research has found that regular group activities may be a good way to combat this issue, as well as cognitive problems.

A team from the University of Sheffield and Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom looked at the impact of socializing and group activities on dementia patients, finding that there were many positive effects on depression and memory. The whole study can be found at the American Psychological Association’s PsycNet database.


Dr. Claudia von Bastian from the University of Sheffield, the study’s senior author, says, “Dementia is one of the biggest global challenges that we face. There is no cure for dementia and current pharmacological treatments often have adverse side effects.

“Our research highlights that cognitive stimulation can be a safe, relatively cheap and accessible treatment to help reduce some of the core symptoms of dementia and may even alleviate symptoms of depression.”

To conduct the research, the team utilized cognitive stimulation. That’s an evidence-based treatment for people with mild-to-moderate dementia. The goal is to actively stimulate and engage dementia patients in a group setting, which also allows for social benefits. Prior studies have found that this type of therapy helps language skills, memory, and orientation, as well.

The team involved in the University of Sheffield study found similar results, along with benefits for those with depression. Researchers say this could prove a low-cost and accessible treatment for many dementia patients, but more needs to be learned.


Dr. Ben Hicks from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School says, “Our research is the first to comprehensively interrogate the evidence base for its effectiveness, using the most up to date statistical techniques. While early signs are positive, there’s an urgent need to improve the rigor of evaluative research and better assess the long-term benefits of cognitive stimulation. People with dementia need effective treatments. As a research community, this is what we must deliver.”

Von Bastian says that while it’s important to learn more about why cognitive stimulation helps and how it influences the progression of dementia, its low-cost and lack of negative side effects are clear benefits.

If you think your loved one with Alzheimer’s is also struggling with depression, be sure to talk to their doctor about diagnosis and possible treatments.

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