Social Network, Activity Participation, and Cognition: A Complex Relationship

Res Aging. 2016 Jan;38(1):76-97. doi: 10.1177/0164027515581422. Epub 2015 Apr 15.


This study examined how two domains of engagement-social network and activity participation-associate with objective and subjective cognitive function in later life. Specific consideration was given as to how these two spheres intersect in regard to recall and memory. The analytic sample included Europeans aged 60 and older drawn from the fourth wave of the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe in which a new name-generated social network inventory was implemented. Multivariate analyses revealed that activity participation yielded stronger positive associations with word recall and self-rated memory than social network alone. However, the interactions indicate that this association lessened in strength for both the objective and subjective cognitive outcome measures as social network resources increased. The findings suggest that the social component of activity participation may be partially contributing to the positive role that such engagement has on cognitive well-being in later life.

Keywords: connectedness; engagement; leisure; recall; subjective memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Support*