Social Support and Successful Aging: Investigating the Relationships Between Lifetime Cognitive Change and Life Satisfaction

Alan J. Gow, Alison Pattie, Martha C. Whiteman, Lawrence Jeffrey Whalley, Ian J. Deary

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    102 Citations (Scopus)


    Social networks or support may contribute to successful aging. The Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 had their mental ability assessed at age 11 and 79. Almost 500 participants also rated their life satisfaction, social networks, and support at age 80. After controlling for age-11 IQ, sex, years of education, and social class, loneliness was the only social network/support characteristic adding significantly to the prediction of age-79 IQ, explaining about 2% of the variance; in old age, increased loneliness was associated with lower cognitive ability. Social network/support factors accounted for 23% of the variance in satisfaction with life ratings, with the greatest contributions from reduced loneliness (~12%) and having someone to talk to (~6%). Social network/support characteristics explained a greater proportion of the variance in life satisfaction ratings compared with later life cognition, although an individual's level of loneliness emerged as the largest single social support predictor of both outcomes. Possible causal pathways for these associations, which need to be studied in future research, are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)103-115
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Individual Differences.
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2007



    • social support
    • social networks
    • cognitive ability
    • life satisfaction

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