Being socially active in your 50s and 60s may help lower the risk of developing dementia in later life, a study has found.

Researchers studied data that tracked more than 10,000 people from 1985 to 2013. The participants answered a questionnaire every five years about the frequency of their social contact with friends and relatives. They were also subject to cognitive testing, and electronic health records were searched for dementia diagnoses.

The results – published in the journal Plos Medicine – showed that seeing friends almost daily at age 60 was associated with a 12% lower likelihood of developing dementia in later life, compared with those who saw only one or two friends every few months. Seeing relatives, on the other hand, did not show the same beneficial association.