Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Social isolation, cognitive reserve, and cognition in older people with depression and anxiety

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Fiona MatthewsORCiD, Professor Carol Brayne



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2018, © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Objectives: Poor social connections may be associated with poor cognition in older people who are not experiencing mental health problems, and the trajectory of this association may be moderated by cognitive reserve. However, it is unclear whether this relationship is the same for older people with symptoms of depression and anxiety. This paper aims to explore social relationships and cognitive function in older people with depression and anxiety. Method: Baseline and two-year follow-up data were analysed from the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study–Wales (CFAS-Wales). We compared levels of social isolation, loneliness, social contact, cognitive function, and cognitive reserve at baseline amongst older people with and without depression or anxiety. Linear regression was used to assess the relationship between isolation and cognition at baseline and two-year follow-up in a subgroup of older people meeting pre-defined criteria for depression or anxiety. A moderation analysis tested for the moderating effect of cognitive reserve. Results: Older people with depression or anxiety perceived themselves as more isolated and lonely than those without depression or anxiety, despite having an equivalent level of social contact with friends and family. In people with depression or anxiety, social isolation was associated with poor cognitive function at baseline, but not with cognitive change at two-year follow-up. Cognitive reserve did not moderate this association. Conclusion: Social isolation was associated with poor cognitive function at baseline, but not two-year follow-up. This may be attributed to a reduction in mood-related symptoms at follow-up, linked to improved cognitive function.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Evans IEM, Llewellyn DJ, Matthews FE, Woods RT, Brayne C, Clare L, On behalf of the CFAS-Wales research ream

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Aging and Mental Health

Year: 2019

Volume: 23

Issue: 12

Pages: 1691-1700

Online publication date: 06/12/2018

Acceptance date: 24/07/2018

Date deposited: 04/01/2019

ISSN (print): 1360-7863

ISSN (electronic): 1364-6915

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2018.1506742


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name