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Multiple Benefits of Socializing for Older Women

womanVisiting with friends and family has always been associated with lifting the spirits and improving mood. A new research study finds socializing may provide additional benefits among older women by improving cognition and perhaps preventing dementia.

The study began in 2001 and included women at least 78 years old who were free of signs of dementia. Researchers conducted follow-up interviews between 2002 and 2005.

“We’ve interviewed people who were not demented and who were able to report on their social network at baseline in 2001,” said lead author Valerie Crooks. “By starting with people who are cognitively intact and following them over time, you can begin to make a legitimate link between social networks and dementia.”

Crooks is director of clinical trials administration and a research scientist at the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. The study appears in the July issue of The American Journal of Public Health.

Women frequently experience increasing social isolation as they age, but it has been difficult to make a solid connection between this social separation and cognitive function and dementia.

For this study, researchers pooled data from 2,249 members of a health maintenance organization, comparing health conditions and demographic information for women with and without dementia at follow-up, at which time they identified 268 new dementia cases in the previously screened women.

The researchers rated each woman’s social network by asking about the number of friends and family members who kept in regular contact, and of these, how many she felt she could rely on for help or confide in.

Of the 456 women with low “social network” scores, 80 women (18 percent) had developed dementia. Of the 1793 women with stronger social networks, 188 (10 percent) had developed dementia.

“The study does a laudatory job of addressing the relationship of these variables,” said Deborah Newquist, Ph.D., director of geriatric services at Louisville, Ky.-based ResCare, Inc. However, concluding that isolation causes dementia might be overstating the case, said Newquist, who is not associated with the study.

“The fundamental problem here is one of the chicken and the egg,” she said. “Are weak social relationships caused by dementia or the other way around?”

“”Finding ways to help older adults remain engaged in productive and enjoyable activities is an important component of successful aging,” said Cathleen Connell, Ph.D., head researcher at the Center for Managing Chronic Disease at the University of Michigan. “Not only have social networks been linked to positive physical and mental health outcomes, but also to quality of life.”

“Our findings indicate that it’s important to think about ways to try to reduce the amount of isolation people have — even those with families,” Crooks said. “It’s also important for us to find out what kinds of social support groups we can create for people who are isolated based on extreme age or lack of family.”

Source: Health Behavior News Service

Multiple Benefits of Socializing for Older Women

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Multiple Benefits of Socializing for Older Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/06/05/multiple-benefits-of-socializing-for-older-women/2413.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.