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Is mid-life social participation associated with cognitive function at age 50? Results from the British National Child Development Study (NCDS)

Is mid-life social participation associated with cognitive function at age 50? Results from the British National Child Development Study (NCDS)
Is mid-life social participation associated with cognitive function at age 50? Results from the British National Child Development Study (NCDS)
Background

Some studies have indicated that social engagement is associated with better cognitive outcomes. This study aimed to investigate associations between life-course social engagement (civic participation) and cognitive status at age 50, adjusting for social networks and support, behavioural, health, social and socio-economic characteristics.

Methods

The vehicle for the study was the National Child Development Study (1958 Birth Cohort Study), which is a general population sample in England, Scotland and Wales (9119: 4497 men and 4622 women) participating in nationally representative, prospective birth cohort surveys. The primary outcome variable was cognitive status at age 50, measured by memory test (immediate and delayed word recall test) and executive functioning test (word fluency and letter cancelation tests). The influence of hypothesised predictor variables was analysed using linear multiple regression analysis.

Results

Cognitive ability at age 11 (??=?0.19;95% CI?=?0.17 to 0.21), participation in civic activities at ages 33 (0.12; 0.02 to 0.22) and 50 (0.13; 0.07 to 0.20), frequent engagement in physical activity (sport) (? from 0.15 to 0.18), achieving higher level qualifications (? from 0.23 to 1.08), and female gender (??=?0.49;95% CI?=?0.38 to 0.60) were positively, significantly and independently associated with cognitive status at age 50. Having low socio-economic status at ages 11 (? from -0.22 to -0.27) and 42 (? from -0.28 to -0.38), and manifesting worse mental well-being at age 42 (??=?-0.18; 95% CI?=?-0.33 to -0.02) were inversely associated with cognitive status at age 50. The proportion of explained variance in the multiple regression model (18%), while modest, is impressive given the multi-faceted causal nature of cognitive status.

Conclusions

The results indicate that modest associations between adult social engagement and cognitive function at age 50 persist after adjusting for covariates which included health, socio-economic status and gender, supporting theories of neuroplasticity. In addition to the continuing emphasis on physical activity, the encouragement of civic participation, at least as early as mid-life, should be a targeted policy to potentially promote and protect cognitive function in later mid-life.
2050-7283
1-15
Bowling, Ann
796ca209-687f-4079-8a40-572076251936
Pikhartova, Jitka
3f9c309d-2cc2-40e4-ab6a-f9a07e96694a
Dodgeon, Brian
7d825f69-16e4-4ebc-a451-478f9d7b3e10
Bowling, Ann
796ca209-687f-4079-8a40-572076251936
Pikhartova, Jitka
3f9c309d-2cc2-40e4-ab6a-f9a07e96694a
Dodgeon, Brian
7d825f69-16e4-4ebc-a451-478f9d7b3e10

Bowling, Ann, Pikhartova, Jitka and Dodgeon, Brian (2016) Is mid-life social participation associated with cognitive function at age 50? Results from the British National Child Development Study (NCDS). BMC Psychology, 4 (58), 1-15. (doi:10.1186/s40359-016-0164-x). (PMID:27908287)

Record type: Article

Abstract

Background

Some studies have indicated that social engagement is associated with better cognitive outcomes. This study aimed to investigate associations between life-course social engagement (civic participation) and cognitive status at age 50, adjusting for social networks and support, behavioural, health, social and socio-economic characteristics.

Methods

The vehicle for the study was the National Child Development Study (1958 Birth Cohort Study), which is a general population sample in England, Scotland and Wales (9119: 4497 men and 4622 women) participating in nationally representative, prospective birth cohort surveys. The primary outcome variable was cognitive status at age 50, measured by memory test (immediate and delayed word recall test) and executive functioning test (word fluency and letter cancelation tests). The influence of hypothesised predictor variables was analysed using linear multiple regression analysis.

Results

Cognitive ability at age 11 (??=?0.19;95% CI?=?0.17 to 0.21), participation in civic activities at ages 33 (0.12; 0.02 to 0.22) and 50 (0.13; 0.07 to 0.20), frequent engagement in physical activity (sport) (? from 0.15 to 0.18), achieving higher level qualifications (? from 0.23 to 1.08), and female gender (??=?0.49;95% CI?=?0.38 to 0.60) were positively, significantly and independently associated with cognitive status at age 50. Having low socio-economic status at ages 11 (? from -0.22 to -0.27) and 42 (? from -0.28 to -0.38), and manifesting worse mental well-being at age 42 (??=?-0.18; 95% CI?=?-0.33 to -0.02) were inversely associated with cognitive status at age 50. The proportion of explained variance in the multiple regression model (18%), while modest, is impressive given the multi-faceted causal nature of cognitive status.

Conclusions

The results indicate that modest associations between adult social engagement and cognitive function at age 50 persist after adjusting for covariates which included health, socio-economic status and gender, supporting theories of neuroplasticity. In addition to the continuing emphasis on physical activity, the encouragement of civic participation, at least as early as mid-life, should be a targeted policy to potentially promote and protect cognitive function in later mid-life.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 3 November 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 2 December 2016
Published date: 2 December 2016
Organisations: Faculty of Health Sciences

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 402429
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/402429
ISSN: 2050-7283
PURE UUID: 1a1ebc0d-1663-4c35-be2a-79c3c5d7f396

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Date deposited: 09 Nov 2016 10:07
Last modified: 19 Jul 2019 19:37

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