Participating in social activities helps preserve cognitive function: An analysis of a longitudinal, population-based study of the elderly

Dana A. Glei, David A. Landau, Noreen Goldman, Yi Li Chuang, Germán Rodríguez, Maxine Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: This study examines how changes in cognition over time are related to participation in social activities and the extent of social networks. Methods: Data are drawn from a population-based, longitudinal study that began in 1989 among elderly Taiwanese. An over-dispersed Poisson model is used to regress the number of failed cognitive tasks (0-5) in 1996, 1999, and 2000 on prior measures of cognitive impairment, social activities, social networks, health status, and sociodemographic characteristics. The analysis sample comprises 2387 individuals, who contribute a total of 4603 observations across three survey intervals (19939-6, 1996-99, 1999-2000). Results: After adjusting for prior cognitive impairment, baseline health status, and sociodemographic factors, respondents who participated in one or two social activities failed 13% fewer cognitive tasks (P < 0.01) than those with no social activities; those who engaged in three or more activities failed 33% fewer cognitive tasks (P < 0.001). In contrast, none of the social network measures was related to cognitive impairment. Conclusions: Despite a social structure where elderly persons often live with their children and social interaction is likely to be more family-centered than in western countries, data from Taiwan suggest that participation in social activities outside the family may have a bigger impact on cognitive function than social contacts with family or non-relatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)864-871
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology

Keywords

  • Cognitive function
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Social activity
  • Social contact
  • Social networks
  • Taiwan

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