Cognitive function is important for healthy aging. Social support availability (SSA) may modify cognitive function. We descriptively examined the association between SSA and cognitive function in a population-level sample of middle- and older-aged adults.
We analyzed the tracking dataset of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Participants aged between 45 and 85 years answered questions about SSA and performed three cognitive tests (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, Animal Fluency Test and Mental Alternation Test) via telephone. We divided global SSA and global cognitive function scores into tertiles and generated contingency tables for comparisons across strata defined by sex, age group, region of residence, urban vs. rural residence and education.
The proportion of participants with low global cognitive function was often greater among persons who reported low global SSA. The proportion of persons with high cognitive function was greater in participants with high SSA. The findings were most pronounced for females, 45- to 54-year olds, all regions (especially Québec) except Atlantic Canada, urban dwellers and persons with less than high school education.
Our results can help public health officials focus on providing social supports to subgroups of the population who would benefit the most from policy interventions.