Social Networks and Memory over 15 Years of Followup in a Cohort of Older Australians: Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing

J Aging Res. 2012;2012:856048. doi: 10.1155/2012/856048. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

Abstract

The purpose was to examine the relationship between different types of social networks and memory over 15 years of followup in a large cohort of older Australians who were cognitively intact at study baseline. Our specific aims were to investigate whether social networks were associated with memory, determine if different types of social networks had different relationships with memory, and examine if changes in memory over time differed according to types of social networks. We used five waves of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and followed 706 participants with an average age of 78.6 years (SD 5.7) at baseline. The relationships between five types of social networks and changes in memory were assessed. The results suggested a gradient of effect; participants in the upper tertile of friends or overall social networks had better memory scores than those in the mid tertile, who in turn had better memory scores than participants in the lower tertile. There was evidence of a linear, but not quadratic, effect of time on memory, and an interaction between friends' social networks and time was apparent. Findings are discussed with respect to mechanisms that might explain the observed relationships between social networks and memory.