What keeps us sharp? Increasing public awareness of the lifestyle factors promoting brain health

Impact: Societal, Health

Description of impact

With 1 in 5 of the UK population aged 65 and over, rising to 1 in 4 by 2050, promoting healthy ageing is a priority. People rate age-related changes in thinking skills as a key concern. Heriot-Watt research investigates lifestyles and behaviours that protect or harm brain health. We directly engaged the public with our findings via local workshops and national events to improve their understanding of ‘brain healthy’ lifestyles. We reached wider audiences, numbering hundreds of thousands and millions across activities, via contributions to radio/TV and third sector outputs that raised awareness of brain health and what supports it.

Who is affected

Members of the public, Charities


From our UK-wide survey, changes in brain health are among the greatest fears about ageing. Our impact activities increase awareness of cognitive ageing, with people benefitting from hearing how lifestyle might affect brain health in engaging and interactive ways. We do this by: 1) directly engaging with the public; 2) working with national and international third sector partners to support their messaging; 3) engaging the public via the media. Our activities reached tens of thousands via materials we developed for Age UK for example, and millions via contributions to the BBC’s flagship radio/TV science programmes, acknowledged by national and international awards for public engagement and impact, including Gow winning the British Psychological Society’s Public Engagement and Media Award and being Runner-up in the Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact 2019.
Impact statusAchieved
Category of impactSocietal, Health
Impact levelNational