|Title||Change in Episodic Memory with Spousal Loss: The Role of Social Relationships.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2022|
|Authors||Hülür, G, Elayoubi, J, Nelson, ME, Haley, WE|
|Journal||The Journals of Gerontology, Series B|
|Keywords||Episodic Memory, longitudinal, Social Relationships, Spousal loss, Widowhood|
OBJECTIVES: The spousal relationship is one of the most important social contexts in old age and the loss of a spouse/partner is associated with stress and cognitive decline. In the present study, we examined whether social relationships can buffer potential negative effects of spousal loss on cognition. We examined the role of social network, social activities, and perceived deficiencies in social relationships (loneliness).
METHOD: We used longitudinal data between 1998-2012 from 2,077 participants of the Health and Retirement Study, who had experienced spousal loss during the study period. Multilevel modeling was used to examine how time-varying indicators of social network, social activities, and loneliness were related to age-related trajectories of episodic memory prior to and after spousal loss. Analyses controlled for gender, race/ethnicity, education, time-varying functional health and being re-partnered/re-married.
RESULTS: Having children living within 10 miles and providing help to others buffered negative effects of widowhood on episodic memory. In addition, within-person increase in providing help to others buffered against decline in episodic memory after spousal loss. Having friends in the neighborhood, more frequent social visits, providing help to others, volunteering, and lack of loneliness were related to higher episodic memory, while having relatives in the neighborhood was related to lower episodic memory.
DISCUSSION: Our findings suggest that social networks, social activities, and loneliness are related to levels of cognitive function at the time of spousal loss and that social relationships can buffer negative effects of spousal loss on cognitive function. Implications for future research are discussed.