Influence of social relationship domains and their combinations on incident dementia: a prospective cohort study

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Abstract

Background

Social relationships consist of mutually related but distinct dimensions. It remains unclear how these domains independently contribute to incident dementia. This large-scale, prospective cohort study examines associations between the social relationship domains as well as their combinations and incident dementia among community-dwelling older adults.

Methods

We analysed data from 13 984 community-dwelling adults aged 65+ without long-term care needs living in Aichi prefecture in Japan. Incident dementia was assessed based on the Long-term Care Insurance records, followed for 3436 days from the baseline survey conducted in 2003. Three social relationships domains (social support, social networks and social activities) were further divided into a total of eight subdomains. A social relationship diversity score was calculated using the social relationship domains which were significantly related to incident dementia.

Results

A Cox proportional hazards model showed that being married, exchanging support with family members, having contact with friends, participating in community groups and engaging in paid work were related to a lower likelihood of developing incident dementia, controlling for covariates and other social relationship domains. The diversity scores, ranging from 0 to 5, were linearly associated with incident dementia (p<0.001), and those who scored highest were 46% less likely to develop incident dementia compared with those in the lowest category.

Conclusions

Our findings revealed five social relationship subdomains which were negatively related to incident dementia, suggesting that dementia may potentially be prevented by enhancing these social relationships. Future studies should examine independent pathways between each social relationship domain and incident dementia.

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