Change Is Good for the Brain: Activity Diversity and Cognitive Functioning across Adulthood

Soomi Lee, Susan T. Charles, David M. Almeida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: Participating in a variety of daily activities (i.e., activity diversity) requires people to adjust to a variety of situations and engage in a greater diversity of behaviors. These experiences may, in turn, enhance cognitive functioning. This study examined associations between activity diversity and cognitive functioning across adulthood. Method: Activity diversity was defined as the breadth and evenness of participation in seven common daily activity domains (e.g., paid work, time with children, leisure, physical activities, volunteering). Participants from the National Survey of Daily Experiences (NSDE: N = 732, Mage = 56) provided activity data during eight consecutive days at Wave 1 (W1) and Wave 2 (W2) 10 years apart. They also provided cognitive data at W2. Results: Greater activity diversity at W2 was associated with higher overall cognitive functioning and higher executive functioning at W2. Individuals who increased activity diversity from W1 to W2 also exhibited higher scores in overall cognitive functioning and executive functioning at W2. Overall cognitive functioning, executive functioning, and episodic memory were better in those who had higher activity diversity at both waves, or increased activity diversity from W1 to W2, compared to those who had lower activity diversity or decreased activity diversity over time. Discussion: Activity diversity is important for cognitive health in adulthood. Future work can study the directionality between activity diversity and cognitive functioning and underlying social and neurological mechanisms for these associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1036-1048
Number of pages13
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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