Social Activity and Healthy Aging: A Study of Aging Danish Twins

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2007 Apr;10(2):255-65. doi: 10.1375/twin.10.2.255.


Although social and intellectual engagement have been consistently associated with late-life functioning, rather than true causation, these associations may reflect the experiential choices of high functioning individuals (i.e., selection effects). We investigated the association of social activity with late-life physical functioning, cognitive functioning, and depression symptomatology using data from 1112 pairs of like-sex twins who participated in the Longitudinal Study of Aging Danish Twins. Consistent with previous research, we found that social activity was significantly correlated with overall level of physical functioning, cognitive functioning, and depression symptomatology. We also found that social activity was significantly and moderately heritable (estimate of .36), raising the possibility that its association with late-life functioning might reflect selection processes. Further, social activity did not predict change in functioning and in monozygotic twin pairs discordant on level of social activity, the more socially active twin was not less susceptible to age decreases in physical and cognitive functioning and increases in depression symptomatology than the less socially active twin. These results are interpreted in the context of the additional finding that nonshared environmental factors, although apparently not social activity, are the predominant determinant of changes in late-life functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Denmark
  • Depression / genetics
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness
  • Social Behavior*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / psychology*