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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)

Bowling, A; Pikhartova, J; Dodgeon, B; (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 (1) , Article 58. 10.1186/s40359-016-0164-x. Green open access

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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 (β = 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) (β from 0.15 to 0.18), achieving higher level qualifications (β from 0.23 to 1.08), and female gender (β = 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 (β from -0.22 to -0.27) and 42 (β from -0.28 to -0.38), and manifesting worse mental well-being at age 42 (β = -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.

Type: Article
Title: Is mid-life social participation associated with cognitive function at age 50? Results from the British National Child Development Study (NCDS)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s40359-016-0164-x
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40359-016-0164-x
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s). 2016 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Keywords: Cognitive function, Civic engagement, Predictor, Longitudinal, Cohort
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute > IOE - Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1541190
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