Having more frequent social contact is associated with better cognitive performance

Andrew Sommerlad and Marko Elovainio

Sommerlad Elovainio

Dementia is the most feared aspect of ageing and is a major global health challenge, so identifying lifestyle factors that can reduce memory decline, and possibly prevent dementia from occurring, is a research priority. In our study, recently published in the IJE, we explored whether having more frequent contact with friends and family, or being married, is linked to better memory and language in older age.

We found that having more social contact and being married in mid-life were both linked to having better cognitive performance over the next 20 years. In particular, we found that verbal fluency was the cognitive area with the strongest link to social contact.

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Social relationships may delay the process of cognitive decline


Marij Zuidersma, Jisca S Kuiper, Sytse U Zuidema

all authorsGood social relationships are important for people’s happiness and well-being, but they also appear to be good for your health. In the current systematic review and meta-analysis we evaluated whether good social relationships are associated with maintaining cognitive performance in old age.

Cognitive performance
Cognitive performance comprises the brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex. It involves amongst others learning, memory, planning, problem-solving, speed of thinking, paying attention and concentration. With increasing age cognitive performance  declines. For some people, this decline comes faster than for others. People with poor cognitive performance are at higher risk of developing dementia and problems with performing daily activities. Currently, there are no effective treatments to delay the onset of cognitive decline. Therefore, it is important to identify modifiable factors that might delay the onset of cognitive decline.
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