Social network, cognitive function, and dementia incidence among elderly women

Am J Public Health. 2008 Jul;98(7):1221-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.115923. Epub 2008 May 29.


Objectives: We examined whether social networks had a protective association with incidence of dementia among elderly women.

Methods: We prospectively studied 2249 members of a health maintenance organization who were 78 years or older, were classified as free of dementia in 2001, and had completed at least 1 follow-up interview in 2002 through 2005. We used the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status-modified, the Telephone Dementia Questionnaire, and medical record review to assess cognitive status. We used the Lubben Social Network Scale-6 to assess social network. We estimated hazard ratios for incident dementia with Cox proportional hazards models, adjusting for age at entry, education, hormone use, cognitive status scores, and health conditions.

Results: We identified 268 incident cases of dementia during follow-up. Compared with women with smaller social networks, the adjusted hazard ratio for incident dementia in women with larger social networks was 0.74 (95% confidence interval=0.57, 0.97).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that larger social networks have a protective influence on cognitive function among elderly women. Future studies should explore which aspects of social networks are associated with dementia risk and maintenance of cognitive health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Mental Health*
  • Mental Recall
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology