The relationship between social functioning and subjective memory complaints in older persons: a population-based longitudinal cohort study

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OBJECTIVE: Poor social functioning is associated with cognitive decline in older adults. It is unclear whether social functioning is also associated with subjective memory complaints (SMC). We investigated the association between social functioning and incident SMC and SMC recovery.

METHODS: A population-based sample of 8762 older adults (aged ≥65 years) with good objective cognitive functioning at baseline (MMSE ≥26) from the LifeLines Cohort Study were followed for 1.5 years. Self-reported SMC were measured at baseline and after 1.5 years follow-up. Aspects of social functioning included marital status, household composition, social network size, social activity, quality of social relationships, social support, affection, behavioral confirmation, and status.

RESULTS: Thirteen percent (513/3963) developed SMC during follow-up (incident SMC). Multivariate logistic regression analyses (adjusted for age, gender, education level, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking status, depression, arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke) showed that participants with better feelings of affection, behavioral confirmation and stable good social support had a lower risk of incident SMC. Thirty-four percent (1632/4799) reported recovery. Participants with good social functioning at baseline on all determinants reported more SMC recovery. People who remained stable in a relationship, stable in good quality of social relationships or increased in quality of social relationships more often report SMC recovery.

CONCLUSIONS: Good social functioning is associated with less incident SMC and more SMC recovery over a follow-up period of 1.5 years. Albeit future confirmative studies are needed, we argue for targeting also social functioning when designing multidomain interventions to prevent or slow down cognitive decline. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1059-1071
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number10
Early online date22-Aug-2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2017


  • memory complaints
  • subjective
  • memory disorders
  • cognition
  • social functioning
  • social relationships
  • RISK

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