|Title||Identifying Racial and Rural Disparities of Cognitive Functioning among Older Adults: The Role of Social Isolation and Social Technology Use.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2022|
|Authors||Byrne, KA, Anaraky, RGhaiumy|
|Journal||The Journals of Gerontology, Series B|
|Keywords||Cognition, rurality, Social Interaction, Social networks, Technology|
OBJECTIVES: Social isolation is associated with poorer cognitive outcomes among older adults. The use of online social technology platforms may provide a means to reduce social isolation. However, research examining whether social technology can mitigate the negative effects of social isolation on cognitive functioning is limited. This study investigates the interaction between social isolation and social technology use on cognitive functioning among older adults and seeks to identify racial and rural-urban differences in this relationship.
METHOD: Data was obtained from the Health and Retirement Study 2014 to 2018 waves (N=5,358). Participants (aged 50-102) completed self-report measures of social isolation, loneliness, and frequency of online social communication and completed the modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TICS-m), which assesses cognitive functioning. Examinations of race focused on differences between Black/African American and White/Caucasian groups; rurality was operationalized using Beale Rural-Urban Continuum Codes. Data was analyzed using structural equation models.
RESULTS: Social technology use moderated the negative relationship between social isolation and cognitive functioning, controlling for age, education, gender, wealth, and general computer usage. Greater social technology use was associated with better cognitive functioning among socially isolated older adults. Results showed evidence of racial, but not rural-urban, differences in the relationship between social technology use and cognitive functioning. Regardless of degree of social isolation, frequent social technology use was associated with improved cognitive functioning in Black/African American older adults but not White/Caucasians older adults.
DISCUSSION: Social technology may represent a way to mitigate cognitive decline, particularly among Black/African American older adults.