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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 287438, 12 pages
Research Article

Social Activity and Cognitive Functioning Over Time: A Coordinated Analysis of Four Longitudinal Studies

1Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3050 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 3P5
2Harborview Medical Center and General Internal Medicine, University of Washington, Box 359780, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
3Department of Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA
4Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science and Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, P.O. Box 100, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
5Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, P.O. Box 500, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
6Bedford Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 200 Springs Rd, Bedford, MA 01730, USA
7Department of Psychology and Neurology, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620, USA
8Center for Biomedical Imaging, Medical University of South Carolina, 68 President St, MSC 120, Charleston, SC 29425, USA
9Andrus Gerontology Center and Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191, USA
10Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, 180 Nickerson, Suite 206, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
11Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, P-217 Biological Sciences Building, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E9
12Davis Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center, University of California, 4860 Y Street, Ste 0100, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA

Received 30 March 2012; Accepted 30 July 2012

Academic Editor: Denis Gerstorf

Copyright © 2012 Cassandra L. Brown et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Social activity is typically viewed as part of an engaged lifestyle that may help mitigate the deleterious effects of advanced age on cognitive function. As such, social activity has been examined in relation to cognitive abilities later in life. However, longitudinal evidence for this hypothesis thus far remains inconclusive. The current study sought to clarify the relationship between social activity and cognitive function over time using a coordinated data analysis approach across four longitudinal studies. A series of multilevel growth models with social activity included as a covariate is presented. Four domains of cognitive function were assessed: reasoning, memory, fluency, and semantic knowledge. Results suggest that baseline social activity is related to some, but not all, cognitive functions. Baseline social activity levels failed to predict rate of decline in most cognitive abilities. Changes in social activity were not consistently associated with cognitive functioning. Our findings do not provide consistent evidence that changes in social activity correspond to immediate benefits in cognitive functioning, except perhaps for verbal fluency.