The right kind of smart: emotional intelligence's relationship to cognitive status in community-dwelling older adults

Int Psychogeriatr. 2019 Sep;31(9):1241-1247. doi: 10.1017/S1041610218002284. Epub 2019 Jan 30.


Objectives: To examine whether emotional intelligence (EI) is associated with cognitive function (CF) in a sample of community-dwelling, non-demented elderly out-patients.

Design: Correlational cross-sectional study.

Setting: Two memory clinics in an urban community in central Israel.

Participants: Individuals age 60 and older without dementia, recruited from two memory clinics (N = 151).

Measurements: Health history was obtained from medical charts. All participants underwent tests measuring CF, basic and instrumental function, general mental ability (GMA), EI, and depression.

Results: Mean age of the participants was 79 years (SD = 7.00) with 96 females (63.6%). Mean score for Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) was 21.62 (SD = 3.09) and for EI was 14.08 (SD = 3.30). Linear multiple regression analysis was conducted to examine associations of CF with EI while controlling for gender, age, education, GMA, and Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI). Age, education, GMA, and CCI were significant correlates of CF and accounted for 31.1% of the variance [F(7,143) = 10.8, p<0.01] in CF. EI was added in the second block and was the factor most strongly associated with CF, explaining an additional 9.1% (a total of 40.2%) of the variance in CF [F(8,142) = 13.2, p<0.01].

Conclusion: This study is the first to show the association between EI and CF in older adults. Future prospective studies are needed to explicate the possibility of EI as a protective factor against cognitive decline.

Keywords: cognitive function; emotional intelligence; older adults.