Summer is a great time to indulge in your wanderlust. Your memory will not only thank you, but it may also depend on it, researchers now say.
That’s right, a study conducted by a cross-disciplinary team of experts proposes that travel may have significant benefits for people fighting dementia.1
Study author Dr. Jun Wen of Edith Cowan University in Australia and his team of researchers posit that traveling—or tourism as they call it—is good for everyone’s brain health, but it may be especially good as a non-drug intervention for folks suffering with dementia.
Why? The study authors conclude that tourism may positively impact well-being and quality of life based on four components. These include how travel impacts feelings, emotions, and mood, as well as how it affects thoughts and memories. The researchers also looked at the impact of travel on behavior and senses.
Stimulates Brain Function
Dr. Wen says all tourism experiences offer elements of anticipation and planning, both of which stimulate brain function.
What’s more, exercise is often an important component of tourism experiences, and it is frequently included in dementia intervention plans.
“Tourism experiences such as a beach visit offer dementia patients sensory stimulation, boosting one’s mood, exercise, music therapy, and instilling a sense of freedom as non-medicine dementia interventions,” Dr. Wen says.
Additionally, Dr. Wen notes that group travel may simulate psychological interventions, and “music at a destination is in line with music therapy programs for those with dementia.”
But do you have to travel to distant exotic places to reap the cognitive benefits? Not necessarily. Dr. Wen and his team define tourism as “visiting places outside one’s everyday environment for no longer than a full year.”
Still, the authors note that there is limited research on how travel benefits tourists with dementia. And Dr. Wen explains that not everyone with dementia should travel.
“A team approach to dementia treatment helps to ensure the best possible care, and decisions about tourism as an intervention should be made with the input of the full team, including medical staff, caregivers, and family members,” he said.
Other Ways Travel Benefits Mental Health
While Dr. Wen’s findings haven’t been proven conclusively, there are plenty of studies pointing to the general mental health perks of travel, including increasing happiness, reducing stress, and even fostering creativity.
One study found that those people who travel regularly (defined as trips at least 75 miles away from their home) report being seven percent happier than those who travel rarely.2
Additionally, research published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal found that, of 1,500 women, those who took vacations more frequently reported less stress and depression.3
Have you ever come back from a vacation with a great new idea? Yep, there’s research to support that, too.
A study published in 2021 assigned 274 workers to self-report their creativity before and after vacation. Researchers observed that workers reported less creativity the first day back at work (perhaps tackling a never-ending “in-box”). However, two weeks after a vacation they felt overall more creative when handling new tasks.4
So, it’s no surprise that you got the idea for the great American novel or a new business on your last sojourn.
Research supports the mental health benefits of travel, and I agree. Even if a trip to an exotic locale isn’t in the cards, you can still reap the benefits of travel closer to home.
Travel by car or train may be easier in this age of flight cancelations and scheduling snafus. A road trip to a nearby town or state can supply similar mental health benefits.
If you’re eager to explore foreign destinations, consider a group trip with a guide, who can help with the language and local customs. Plus, you’ll meet fellow travelers with similar interests. This is especially helpful if you choose to travel alone.
So, dust off your passport or plan a weekend – even a day trip – to somewhere new. If these past few years have taught us anything, it’s to embrace all that life has to offer, and that includes new experiences in other towns, cities, states, and countries. Your memory and your mental health will thank you!