Social Network Characteristics and Cognition in Middle-Aged and Older Adults

Department of Mental Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 624 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.
The Journals of Gerontology Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (Impact Factor: 3.21). 12/2004; 59(6):P278-84. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/59.6.P278
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We examined the relationship between social network characteristics and global cognitive status in a community-based sample of 354 adults aged 50+ and with Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores of 28+ at baseline. Multivariate analyses indicated that interaction in larger social networks related to better maintenance of MMSE scores and reduced odds of decline to population-based lower quartile MMSE scores at follow-up 12 years later. At follow-up, higher levels of interpersonal activity (more frequent contacts in larger social networks) and exposure to emotional support independently related positively to MMSE. The findings suggest that interaction in larger social networks is a marker that portends less cognitive decline, and that distinct associational paths link interpersonal activity and emotional support to cognitive function.

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    • "Sustaining an active lifestyle, and consequently using cognitive mechanisms, protects against cognitive decline and dementia [7] [8] [9] [10]. Social engagement may be viewed from this perspective as a form of everyday activity that is cognitively stimulating [11]. There have been numerous studies illustrating the effect of social engagement on cognition in ageing. "
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    ABSTRACT: Social engagement is a lifestyle factor that has received much attention in preventative research. Numerous studies in the current literature have argued the importance of social engagement in ageing, particularly for cognitive health. One key example of social engagement in later life is the role of a grandparent. This role promotes a socially active lifestyle that may be beneficial to cognitive ageing. Recent research has found that spending some time with grandchildren is beneficial; however, the pressures and responsibilities characteristic of this role should also be taken into consideration, as they may have opposing effects on cognitive health. Given the current popularity of grandparenting as a form of childcare, the interests of the grandparents and the impact on ageing health need to be carefully considered.
    Maturitas 11/2014; 80(2). DOI:10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.10.017 · 2.94 Impact Factor
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    • "As a result, indices of network structure typically conflate different types of social relationships e so that they fail to differentiate between the effects of individual, or one-on-one, engagement (i.e., with other well-known individuals; e.g., a spouse, child, friend or relative) and the effects of engagement with broader social groups (e.g., one's wider family, recreational clubs, voluntary and church groups). Moreover, the majority of studies tend to place greater emphasis on the former (e.g., see Bennett et al., 2006; Crooks et al., 2008; Ertel et al., 2008; Fratiglioni et al., 2000; Giles et al., 2012; Green et al., 2008; Holtzman et al., 2004). Indeed, where group engagement is measured, the data tends to be coded for its presence or absence and treated as an equivalent construct to engagement with individuals , often resulting in the two constructs being collapsed into a single social network index (Barnes et al., 2004; Bassuk et al., 1999; Seeman et al., 2001; Zunzenugui et al., 2003). "
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    ABSTRACT: Aligned with research in the social capital and general health literature, a large body of evidence shows that older people who are more socially active have better cognitive integrity and are less vulnerable to cognitive decline. The present research addresses the question of whether the type of social engagement (group-based vs. individual) has differential effects on these cognitive health outcomes. Drawing on population data (N = 3413) from three waves (i.e., Waves 3, 4 and 5) of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, we investigated the independent contribution of group and individual engagement in predicting cognitive functioning four years later. Hierarchical linear regression was used entering age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and physical health as covariates. The final model, controlling for initial cognitive function and social engagement (both group and individual) showed that only group engagement made a significant, sustained, and unique contribution to subsequent cognitive function. Furthermore, the effects of group engagement were stronger with increasing age. These findings extend previous work on the social determinants of health by pinpointing the types of relationships that are particularly beneficial in protecting cognitive health. The fact that group engagement optimized health outcomes, and that this was especially the case with increasing age, has important implications for directing community resources to keep older adults mentally active and independent for longer.
    Social Science & Medicine 08/2014; 120:57-66. DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.08.037 · 2.89 Impact Factor
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    • "In longitudinal research on social support and cognitive functioning , individuals with poor cognitive functioning at baseline are commonly excluded (Amieva et al., 2010; Bennett et al., 2006; Holtzman et al., 2004; Krueger et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2002). Therefore we only included participants without signs of dementia at baseline (T 1 ), i.e. those who had a MMSE score of at least 24. "
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    ABSTRACT: Research in gerontology has demonstrated mixed effects of social support on cognitive decline and dementia: Social support has been shown to be protective in some studies, but not in others. Moreover, little is known about the underlying mechanisms between social support and cognitive functioning. We investigate one of the possible mechanisms, and argue that subjective appraisals rather than received amounts of social support affect cognitive functioning. Loneliness is seen as an unpleasant experience that occurs when a person’s network of relationships is felt to be deficient in some important way. As such, loneliness describes the extent to which someone’s needs are not being met and thus provides a subjective assessment of support quality. We expect that receiving instrumental and emotional support reduces loneliness, which in turn preserves cognitive functioning. Data are from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) and include 2,255 Dutch participants aged 55 to 85 over a period of six years. Respondents were measured every three years. Cognitive functioning was assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Coding Task, and the Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices. The analytical approach comprised latent growth mediation models. Frequent emotional support related to reduced feelings of loneliness and better cognitive functioning. Increases in emotional support also directly enhanced cognitive performance. The protective effect of emotional support was strongest amongst adults aged 65 years and older. Increase in instrumental support did not buffer cognitive decline, instead there were indications for faster decline. After ruling out the possibility of reversed causation, we conclude that emotional support relationships are a more powerful protector of cognitive decline than instrumental support relationships.
    Social Science [?] Medicine 12/2013; 98:116-124. DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.09.002 · 2.89 Impact Factor
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