Association between functional social support and cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults: a protocol for a systematic review Academic Article uri icon

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  • IntroductionMaintenance of cognitive function into old age is important for ageing populations. Researchers seek to identify modifiable risk and protective factors for cognitive function. One such modifiable factor is functional social support, that is, one’s perception of whether their social network can provide resources such as material help, companionship, information and emotional contact, if needed. While the literature generally reports positive associations between functional social support and cognitive function, results vary according to study methods such as the tool used to measure functional social support or the specific cognitive domain under investigation. Our review will summarise the association between functional social support and cognitive function in middle-aged and older-aged adults who reside in any setting (eg, community dwelling, long-term care facilities). We will also identify sources of discrepant findings between studies.Methods and analysisThis protocol was reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Protocols guideline. PubMed, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) and Scopus will be searched from inception to the present using a search strategy developed with a medical librarian’s help. We will supplement the database searches with a grey literature search. English-language or French-language studies with a comparison group will be subject to inclusion, regardless of the measures used to assess functional social support or cognitive function. We will assess risk of bias with the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool-Version 2 or the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale, narratively synthesise the extracted data and conduct a meta-analysis of studies with similar characteristics (eg, sample age and sex, cognitive function outcomes). Two independent raters will screen articles and assess risk of bias.Ethics and disseminationThis review is timely given the push toward early diagnosis and treatment of dementia/major neurocognitive disorder and other types of cognitive impairment. This protocol does not require a formal ethics review. We will publish our findings in a peer-reviewed journal.


  • Rutter, Emily C
  • Tyas, Suzanne L
  • Maxwell, Colleen J
  • Law, Jane
  • O'Connell, Megan E
  • Konnert, Candace A
  • Oremus, Mark

publication date

  • April 2020