Psychological and Mnemonic Benefits of Nostalgia for People with Dementia

Sanda Ismail, Gary Christopher, Emily Dodd, Tim Wildschut, Constantine Sedikides, Tom A Ingram, Roy W Jones, Krist A Noonan, Danielle Tingley, Richard Cheston

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BACKGROUND: Studies with non-clinical populations show that nostalgia increases psychological resources, such as self-esteem and social connectedness.

OBJECTIVES: Our objectives were to find out if the benefits of nostalgia in non-clinical populations generalize to people with dementia and if nostalgia facilitates recall of dementia-related information.

METHODS: All three experiments recruited participants with mild or moderate levels of dementia. Experiment 1 tested whether nostalgia (compared to control) enhances psychological resources among 27 participants. Experiment 2 used music to induce nostalgia (compared to control) in 29 participants. Experiment 3 compared recall for self-referent dementia statements among 50 participants randomized to either a nostalgia or control condition. Findings across experiments were synthesized with integrative data analysis.

RESULTS: Nostalgia (compared to control) significantly increased self-reported social connectedness, meaning in life, self-continuity, optimism, self-esteem, and positive (but not negative) affect (Experiments 1-3). Compared to controls, nostalgic participants also recalled significantly more self-referent dementia-related information (Experiment 3).

CONCLUSION: This series of experiments extends social psychological research with non-clinical populations into dementia care, providing evidence that nostalgia significantly enhances psychological resources. The finding that nostalgia increased recall of self-referent statements about dementia suggests that this emotion lends participants the fortitude to face the threat posed by their illness. The finding has potentially important clinical implications both for the development of reminiscence therapy and for facilitating adjustment to a diagnosis of dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1327-1344
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2018


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • autobiographical memory
  • dementia
  • immediate recall
  • psychological adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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