The relationship between stress, social support, and cognition in geriatric depression is complex. In this study, we sought to examine whether an increase in stressful life events or a decrease in social support would lead to subsequent cognitive decline among older adults with and without depression.Methods:
The sample consisted of 112 depressed and 101 non-depressed older adults who enrolled in the Neurocognitive Outcomes of Depression in the Elderly (NCODE) study. Participants were assessed clinically, agreed to interviews focusing on stressful life events and social support, and underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests annually. Our global measure of cognition was the Consortium to Establish a Registry in Alzheimer's disease Total Score (CERAD TS).Results:
We found that a decline in the total number of stressors was associated with a subsequent improvement on CERAD TS. In terms of social support, decreased social interaction, and instrumental social support predicted decline in cognitive performance. These relationships were significant even after controlling for depression status, age, education, and sex.Conclusions:
These findings extend prior research on the importance of social factors in aging and depression which have largely focused on mood-related outcomes. Future confirmatory studies are needed. In addition, biological and other studies should be conducted to further our understanding of the relationship between stress, social support and cognition in older adults with and without depression. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.