Social relationships, social support, and patterns of cognitive aging in healthy, high-functioning older adults: MacArthur studies of successful aging

Health Psychol. 2001 Jul;20(4):243-55. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.20.4.243.


This study examines the relationship of social ties and support to patterns of cognitive aging in the MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging (see L. F. Berkman et al., 1993), a cohort study of 1,189 initially high-functioning older adults. Baseline and longitudinal data provide information on initial levels as well as changes in cognitive performance over a 7.5-year period. Linear regression analyses revealed that participants receiving more emotional support had better baseline performance, as did those who were unmarried and those reporting greater conflict with network members. Greater baseline emotional support was also a significant predictor of better cognitive function at the 7.5-year follow-up, controlling for baseline cognitive function and known sociodemographic, behavioral, psychological, and health status predictors of cognitive aging. The findings suggest the potential value of further research on the role of the social environment in protecting against cognitive declines at older ages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support*
  • Wechsler Scales