Associations of Social Networks with Cognition in Old Age: Results form the Berlin Aging Study

Timothy Windsor, Denis Gerstorf

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Leading an engaged lifestyle is recognised as one means of contributing to cognitive health across adulthood. This has led to several studies examining associations of social network attributes with cognition in older adults. Most have focused on structural aspects of networks (e.g., network size and activity engagement), however social networks are multi-faceted and different aspects of social behaviour could affect cognition through different mechanisms. This study used data from the Berlin Aging Study (BASE), a population-based study of 516 adults (age range 70 – 103) to examine associations of baseline social network structure (number of close others, network members lost through death), and network quality (social and emotional loneliness, number of upsetting network members) with levels and rates of change in processing speed and verbal fluency. Number of close others, and number of network members lost were not associated with levels, or rates of decline in speed or fluency across the 13 year study interval. Among the network quality indicators, greater social and emotional loneliness were each related to poorer levels of cognitive performance, but were unrelated to rates of change. Having a greater number of problematic network members was associated with higher levels of fluency. The discussion focuses on the different mechanisms through which social functioning could affect cognition, and considers issues of possible reciprocal causation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-708
Number of pages2
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
EventInternational Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics - San Francisco, United States
Duration: 23 Jul 201727 Jul 2017


  • social networks
  • cognition
  • old age
  • aging study


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