Being Social in Old Age May Prevent Cognitive Decline

Most social individuals have 70 percent reduction in cognitive decline compared to least social

THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults who are more socially active may experience less cognitive decline in old age, according to a study published online April 8 in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Bryan D. James, Ph.D., from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, and colleagues investigated the association between social activity and cognitive decline in 1,138 participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, with an average age of 79.6 years, without dementia at baseline. Participants were followed up for a mean of 5.2 years, and cognitive function was assessed annually using tests that focused on global cognitive function and five domains of cognitive function. Cognitive function was adjusted for confounding factors including age, gender, race, education, depression, social network size, chronic conditions, disability, neuroticism, extraversion, and cognitive and physical activity.

The investigators found that more social activity was correlated with less cognitive decline after adjusting for variables. Increase in social activity score by one point was significantly correlated with a 47 percent decrease in the rate of decline in global cognitive function. In individuals who were frequently socially active (90th percentile), the global cognitive decline rate was reduced by 70 percent on average compared to those who were infrequently socially active (in the 10th percentile). The correlation was similar across five domains of cognitive function. The association was not driven by individuals with the lowest cognition levels or with mild cognitive impairment at baseline.

"More frequent social activity was associated with subsequent reduced rates of cognitive decline over an average of five years of follow-up," the authors write.


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