Older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were 30 percent more likely to regain normal cognition if they were upbeat versus those who were down-and-out about ageing.

Feeling happy about getting older can reverse a common type of memory loss, according to a new study from Yale. Moreover, a cheerful approach to the silver years allowed participants to recover their cognition up to two years earlier than the others.

The Yale School of Public Health study is reported to be the first of its kind to link a cultural factor – a positive attitude towards ageing – to MCI recovery.

The research was based on 1,716 participants over age 65.

Those who started the study with normal cognition and a happy attitude toward ageing were less likely to develop MCI over the next 12 years than those in the negative-thinking group, regardless of physical health or the age they joined the cohort.

Professor Becca Levy, lead author of the study said: “Most people assume there is no recovery from MCI. But in fact half of those who have it do recover. But little is known about why some recover while others don’t, which is why we looked at positive age beliefs, to see if they would help provide an answer.”

“Our previous research has demonstrated that age beliefs can be modified; therefore, age-belief interventions at the individual and societal levels could increase the number of people who experience cognitive recovery,” she said in a statement.

Her research, published  in JAMA Network Open, was spurred by her previous discovery that older people who felt positive about their age experienced improved cognitive performance.