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2018 Conference Presentation

Dementia EnglandUnited Kingdom

11 September 2018

Social isolation predicts memory decline in later life

Sanna Read, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), United Kingdom

Adelina Comas-Herrera PSSRU, London School of Economics and Political Science
Emily Grundy University of Essex


Objectives: To investigate the dynamics of causal pathways between social isolation and memory in older men and women.

Methods: The sample included 6123 women and 5110 men aged 50+ from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Latent change score models from six measurement occasions every two years from 2002 were used to investigate causal associations between social isolation and memory. Models were adjusted for age, socioeconomic position and health.

Results: Social isolation increased and memory decreased over time. An initially high level of social isolation predicted a somewhat faster decrease in memory in men. A faster increase in social isolation predicted a faster decrease in memory and a faster increase in social isolation in women.

Conclusion: Changes in social isolation and memory are causally related. Poor memory does not lead to increases in social isolation, but social isolation increases memory decline. Women are especially affected, as changes in social isolation tend to accumulate and lead to more profound memory decline over time in women compared to men.

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