Social support and verbal interaction are differentially associated with cognitive function in midlife and older age


Zuelsdorff ML, Koscik RL, Okonkwo OC, Peppard PE, Hermann BP, Sager MA, Johnson SC, Engelman CD

Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2017 Dec 15:1-17. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract

Social engagement is associated with healthy aging and preserved cognition. Two dimensions of engagement, verbal interactions and perceived support, likely impact cognition via distinct mechanistic pathways. We explored the cognitive benefit of each construct among enrollees (N = 1,052, mean age = 60.2 years) in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention study, who provide neuropsychological and sociobehavioral data at two-year intervals. Outcomes included six cognitive factor scores representing key domains of executive function and memory. Key predictors included self-reported perceived social support and weekly verbal interaction. Results indicated that after adjusting for lifestyle covariates, social support was positively associated with Speed and Flexibility and that verbal interactions were associated with Verbal Learning and Memory. These findings suggest that support, which may buffer stress, and verbal interaction, an accessible, aging-friendly form of environmental enrichment, are uniquely beneficial. Both are integral in the design of clinical and community interventions and programs that promote successful aging.

Contributing Lab Members