We investigated whether engaging in cognitive activities is associated with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in a cross-sectional study derived from an ongoing population-based study of normal cognitive aging and MCI in Olmsted County, Minnesota. A random sample of 1321 non-demented study participants ages 70 to 89 (n = 1124 cognitively normal persons and n = 197 subjects with MCI) was interviewed about the frequency of cognitive activities carried out in late life (within one year of the date of interview). Computer activities [OR (95% CI) = 0.50 (0.36, 0.71); p < .0001)], craft activities such as knitting, quilting, etc. [0.66 (0.47, 0.93); p = 0.019)], playing games [0.65 (0.47, 0.90); p = 0.010)], and reading books [0.67 (0.49, 0.94); p = 0.019)] were associated with decreased odds of having MCI. Social activities such as traveling were marginally significant [0.71 (0.51, 1.00); p = 0.050)]. Even though the point estimates for reading magazines, playing music, artistic activities, and group activities were associated with reduced odds of having MCI, none reached statistical significance. We could not expect to observe any difference between the two groups on the variable of reading newspapers since almost identical proportions of the two groups (97.4% of normals and 97.5% of the MCI group) were engaged in reading newspapers on a regular basis.
Keywords: cognitive activities, aging, mild cognitive impairment