Effects of social integration on preserving memory function in a nationally representative US elderly population.

TitleEffects of social integration on preserving memory function in a nationally representative US elderly population.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsErtel, KA, M. Glymour, M, Berkman, LF
JournalAm J Public Health
Date Published2008 Jul
ISSN Number1541-0048
Call Numbernewpubs20080822
KeywordsAged, Aged, 80 and over, Cognition Disorders, Female, Health Behavior, Health Status, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Mental Health, Mental Recall, Predictive Value of Tests, Reproducibility of Results, Severity of Illness Index, social isolation, Social Support, Socioeconomic factors, United States

OBJECTIVES: We tested whether social integration protects against memory loss and other cognitive disorders in late life in a nationally representative US sample of elderly adults, whether effects were stronger among disadvantaged individuals, and whether earlier cognitive losses explained the association (reverse causation).

METHODS: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 16,638), we examined whether social integration predicted memory change over 6 years. Memory was measured by immediate and delayed recall of a 10-word list. Social integration was assessed by marital status, volunteer activity, and frequency of contact with children, parents, and neighbors. We examined growth-curve models for the whole sample and within subgroups.

RESULTS: The mean memory score declined from 11.0 in 1998 to 10.0 in 2004. Higher baseline social integration predicted slower memory decline in fully adjusted models (P<.01). Memory among the least integrated declined at twice the rate as among the most integrated. This association was largest for respondents with fewer than 12 years of education. There was no evidence of reverse causation.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides evidence that social integration delays memory loss among elderly Americans. Future research should focus on identifying the specific aspects of social integration most important for preserving memory.

User Guide Notes


Endnote Keywords

Memory/Social Interaction/Cognitive Function

Endnote ID


Alternate JournalAm J Public Health
Citation Key7307
PubMed ID18511736
PubMed Central IDPMC2424091
Grant ListR01 AG023399 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01 AG023399-01 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
AG023399 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States