Background The extent to which social relationships influence cognitive ageing is unclear. This study investigates the impact of mid-lif quality of close relationships on cognitive decline, using multilevel modelling.
Methods Whitehall II study participants (n = 6495, aged 45–69 at baseline) provided cognitive assessments (executive function and memory) three times over 10 years. The quality of close relationships was assessed by the Close Persons Questionnaire.
Results Higher levels of adverse close relationships in mid-life were related to lower concurrent memory (-0.07; 95% CI: -0.12,-0.02 SD) and accelerated 10-year decline in executive function (-0.04; 95% CI: -0.07,-0.01 SD). Participants reporting higher cumulative negative aspects of close relationships experienced greater decline in executive function (-0.04; 95% CI: -0.07,-0.01 SD). Longitudinal analysis found no evidence of reverse causality.
Conclusion Adverse close relationships predict relatively rapid cognitive ageing. This study highlights the importance of differentiating aspects of social relationships to evaluate their unique health effects.
- social relationships
- cognitive decline
- longitudinal studies
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