Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 18
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Appelbaum, Steven H. Wenger, Richard Pachon Buitrago, Carolina and Kaur, Ravneet 2016. The effects of old-age stereotypes on organizational productivity (part one). Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 48, Issue. 4, p. 181.

    Appelbaum, Steven H. Wenger, Richard Buitrago, Carolina Pachon and Kaur, Ravneet 2016. The effects of old-age stereotypes on organizational productivity (part three). Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 48, Issue. 6, p. 303.

    Appelbaum, Steven H. Wenger, Richard Buitrago, Carolina Pachon and Kaur, Ravneet 2016. The effects of old-age stereotypes on organizational productivity (part two). Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 48, Issue. 5, p. 241.

    Arpino, Bruno and Bordone, Valeria 2016. Regular provision of grandchild care and participation in social activities. Review of Economics of the Household,

    Chiu, Ching-Ju Hu, Susan C. Wray, Linda A. and Wu, Shang-Te 2016. The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Psychobehavioral Correlates in Buffering Diabetes-Related Cognitive Decline. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 50, Issue. 3, p. 436.

    Phillips, Natalie A. 2016. The Implications of Cognitive Aging for Listening and the Framework for Understanding Effortful Listening (FUEL). Ear and Hearing, Vol. 37, p. 44S.

    Haustein, Sonja and Siren, Anu 2015. Older People's Mobility: Segments, Factors, Trends. Transport Reviews, Vol. 35, Issue. 4, p. 466.

    Thordardottir, Björg Chiatti, Carlos Ekstam, Lisa and Malmgren Fänge, Agneta 2015. Heterogeneity of Characteristics among Housing Adaptation Clients in Sweden—Relationship to Participation and Self-Rated Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 13, Issue. 1, p. 91.

    Zhang, Zhen and Zhang, Jianxin 2015. Social Participation and Subjective Well-Being Among Retirees in China. Social Indicators Research, Vol. 123, Issue. 1, p. 143.

    Arpino, Bruno and Bordone, Valeria 2014. Does Grandparenting Pay Off? The Effect of Child Care on Grandparents' Cognitive Functioning. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 76, Issue. 2, p. 337.

    Schneeweis, Nicole Skirbekk, Vegard and Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf 2014. Does Education Improve Cognitive Performance Four Decades After School Completion?. Demography, Vol. 51, Issue. 2, p. 619.

    Skirbekk, Vegard Bordone, Valeria and Weber, Daniela 2014. A cross-country comparison of math achievement at teen age and cognitive performance 40 years later. Demographic Research, Vol. 31, p. 105.

    Weir, David Lay, Margaret and Langa, Kenneth 2014. Economic development and gender inequality in cognition: A comparison of China and India, and of SAGE and the HRS sister studies. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Vol. 4, p. 114.

    Bowen, C. E. and Skirbekk, V. 2013. National Stereotypes of Older People's Competence Are Related to Older Adults' Participation in Paid and Volunteer Work. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Vol. 68, Issue. 6, p. 974.

    Turek, Konrad and Perek-Bialas, Jolanta 2013. The role of employers opinions about skills and productivity of older workers: example of Poland. Employee Relations, Vol. 35, Issue. 6, p. 648.

    Jiménez-Martín, Sergi and Vilaplana Prieto, Cristina 2012. La interacción del sistema social y el sanitario. Informe SESPAS 2012. Gaceta Sanitaria, Vol. 26, p. 124.

    Skirbekk, V. Loichinger, E. and Weber, D. 2012. Variation in cognitive functioning as a refined approach to comparing aging across countries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 109, Issue. 3, p. 770.

    Tamosiunas, Abdonas Baceviciene, Migle Reklaitiene, Regina Radisauskas, Ricardas Jureniene, Kristina Azaraviciene, Adelina Luksiene, Dalia Malinauskiene, Vilija Daugeliene, Evelina and Sapranaviciute-Zabazlajeva, Laura 2012. Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive function in middle aged and elderly Lithuanian urban population: results from the HAPIEE study. BMC Neurology, Vol. 12, Issue. 1,


Social involvement, behavioural risks and cognitive functioning among older people

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 14 December 2009

This study analyses the relationships between cognitive performance, social participation and behavioural risks, taking into account age and educational attainment. We examine individual data for 11 European countries and Israel from the first wave of the Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The stochastic frontier approach methodology enables us to identify different sources of plasticity on cognitive functioning while taking into account age-related decline in cognitive performance. Several social participation variables were examined: employment status, attending educational courses, doing voluntary or charity work, providing help to family, friends or neighbours, participating in sports, social or other clubs, in a religious organisation and in a political or community organisation, and we controlled for age, education, income, physical activity, body-mass index, smoking and drinking. In the pooled sample, the results clearly show that all kinds of social involvement enhance cognitive functions, in particular in work. Moreover, behavioural risks such as physical inactivity, obesity, smoking or drinking were clearly detrimental to cognitive performance. Models for men and women were run separately. For both genders, all social involvement indicators associated with better cognitive performance. The results varied by countries, however, particularly the signs of the associations with a number of indicators of social involvement and behavioural risks.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Henriette Engelhardt-Woelfler, Population Studies, Otto Friedrich University Bamberg, Lichtenhaidestr. 11, D-96045Bamberg, Germany E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. Aigner , K. Lovell and P. Schmidt 1977. Formulation and estimation of stochastic frontier production function models. Journal of Econometrics, 6, 1, 2137.

K. Ball , D. B. Berch , K. F. Helmers , J. B. Jobe , M. D. Leveck , M. Marsiske , J. N. Morris , G. W. Rebok , D. M. Smith , S. L. Tennstedt , F. W. Unverzagt and S. L. Willis 2002. Effects of cognitive training interventions with older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288, 18, 2271–81.

P. B. Baltes and M. M. Baltes 1990. Psychological perspectives on successful aging: the model of selective optimization with compensation. In P. B. Baltes and M. M. Baltes (eds), Successful Aging: Perspectives from the Behavioral Sciences. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 134.

C. Bardage , S. M. F. Pluijm , N. L. Pedersen , D. J. H. Deeg , M. Jylhä , M. Noale , T. Blumstein and A. Otero 2005. Self-rated health among older adults: a cross-national comparison. European Journal of Ageing, 2, 2, 149–58.

L. L. Barnes , C. F. Mendes de Leon , R. S. Wilson , J. L. Bienias and D. A. Evans 2004. Social resources and cognitive decline in a population of older African Americans and whites. Neurology, 63, 12, 2322–26.

S. Bassuk , T. A. Glass and L. F. Berkman 1999. Social disengagement and incident cognitive decline in community-dwelling elderly persons. Annals of Internal Medicine, 131, 3, 165–73.

G. E. Battese and T. J. Coelli 1995. A model for technical inefficiency effects in a stochastic frontier production function for panel data. Empirical Economics, 20, 2, 325–32.

F. Beland , M.-V. Zunzunegui , B. Alvarado , A. Otero and T. del Ser 2005. Trajectories of cognitive decline and social relations. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60, 6, P320–30.

D. A. Bennett , R. S. Wilson , J. A. Schneider , D. A. Evans , C. F. Mendes de Leon , S. E. Arnold , L. L. Barnes and J. L. Bienias 2003. Education modifies the relation of AD pathology to level of cognitive function in older persons. Neurology, 60, 12, 1909–15.

L. F. Berkman , T. Glass , I. Brissette and T. E. Seeman 2000. From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Social Science and Medicine, 51, 6, 843–57.

J. E. Blum , L. F. Jarvik and E. T. Clark 1970. Rate of change on selective tests of intelligence: a twenty-year longitudinal study of aging. Journal of Gerontology, 25, 3, 171–6.

A. Börsch-Supan , K. Hank and H. Jürges 2005. A new comprehensive and international view on ageing: introducing the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. European Journal of Ageing, 2, 4, 245–53.

R. Bosse , C. M. Aldwin , M. R. Levenson and D. J. Ekerdt 1987. Mental health differences among retirees and workers: findings from the Normative Aging Study. Psychology and Aging, 2, 4, 383–9.

H. Christensen , A. J. Mackinnon , A. E. Korten , A. F. Jorm , A. S. Henderson and P. Jacomb 1999. Dispersion in cognitive ability as a function of age: a longitudinal study of an elderly community sample. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, 6, 3, 214–28.

C. E. Coffey , W. E. Wilkinson , I. A. Parashos , S. A. Soady , R. J. Sullivan , L. J. Patterson , G. S. Figiel , M. C. Webb , C. E. Spritzer and W. T. Djang 1992. Quantitative cerebral anatomy of the aging human brain: a cross-sectional study using magnetic resonance imaging. Neurology, 42, 1, 527–36.

S. Cohen 2004. Social relationships and health. American Psychologist, 59, 8, 676–84.

M. S. Cole , W. S. Schaninger and S. G. Harris 2002. The workplace social exchange network: a multilevel, conceptual examination. Group and Organizational Management, 27, 1, 142–67.

M. Crowe , R. Andel , N. L. Pedersen , B. Johansson and M. Gatz 2003. Does participation in leisure activities lead to reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease? A prospective study of Swedish twins. Journal of Gerontology, Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58, 5, P249–55.

S. Cullum , F. A. Huppert , M. McGee , T. Dening , A. Ahmed , E. S. Paykel and C. Brayne 2000. Decline across different domains of cognitive function in normal ageing: results of a longitudinal population-based study using CAMCOG. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 15, 9, 853–62.

I. J. Deary , A. Pattie , M. D. Taylor , M. C. Whiteman , J. M. Starr and L. J. Whalley 2003. Smoking and cognitive change from age 11 to age 80. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 74, 7, 1006–7.

I. J. Deary , L. J. Whalley , H. Lemmon , J. R. Crawford and J. M. Starr 2000. The stability of individual differences in mental ability from childhood to old age: follow-up of the 1932 Scottish mental survey. Intelligence, 28, 1, 4955.

M. G. Dik , D. J. H. Deeg , M. Visser and C. Jonker 2003. Early life physical activity and cognition at old age. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 25, 5, 643–53.

M. F. Elias , P. K. Elias , L. M. Sullivan , P. A. Wolf and R. B. D'Agostino 2003. Lower cognitive function in the presence of obesity and hypertension: the Framingham heart study. International Journal of Obesity, 27, 2, 260–8.

P. C. Elwood , J. E. J. Gallacher , C. A. Hopkinson , J. Pickering , P. Rabbitt , B. Stollery , C. Brayne , F. A. Huppert and A. Bayer 1999. Smoking, drinking and other life style factors and cognitive function in men in the Caerphilly cohort. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 53, 1, 9–14.

M. Falleti , A. Sanfilippo , P. Maruff , L. Weih and K.-A. Phillips 2006. The nature and severity of cognitive impairment associated with adjuvant chemotherapy in women with breast cancer: a meta-analysis of the current literature. Brain and Cognition, 59, 1, 6070.

H. M. Fillit , R. N. Butler , A. W. O'Connell , M. S. Albert , J. E. Birren , C. W. Cotman , W. T. Greenough , P. E. Gold , A. F. Kramer , L. H. Kuller , T. T. Perls , B. G. Sahagan and T. Tully 2002. Achieving and maintaining cognitive vitality with aging. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 77, 7, 681–96.

T. A. Glass , C. Mendes de Leon , R. A. Marottoli and L. F. Berkman 1999. Population-based study of social and productive activities as predictors of survival among elderly Americans. British Medical Journal, 319, 7208, 478–83.

D. A. Glei , D. A. Landau , N. Goldman , Y. Chuang , G. Rodríguez and M. Weinstein 2005. Participating in social activities helps preserve cognitive function: an analysis of a longitudinal, population-based study of the elderly. International Journal of Epidemiology, 34, 4, 864–71.

L. S. Honig and R. N. Rosenberg 2000. Apoptosis and neurologic disease. American Journal of Medicine, 108, 4, 317–30.

J. L. Horn and R. Cattell 1966. Refinement and test of the theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 57, 5, 253–70.

J. L. Horn and R. Cattell 1967. Age differences in fluid and crystallized intelligence. Acta Psychologica, 26, 2, 107–29.

H. Jürges 2007. True health vs. response styles: exploring cross-country differences in self-reported health. Health Economics, 16, 2, 163–78.

R. Katzman 1993. Education and the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Neurology, 43, 6, supplement 3, 1320.

L. J. Launer , K. Andersen , M. E. Dewey , L. Letenneur , A. Ott , L. A. Amaducci , C. Brayne , J. R. Copeland , J. F. Dartigues , P. Kragh-Sorensen , A. Lobo , J. M. Martinez-Lage , T. Stijnen and A. Hofman 1999. Rates and risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer's disease: results from EURODEM pooled analyses. EURODEM Incidence Research Group and Work Groups. European Studies of Dementia. Neurology, 52, 1, 7884.

N. Le Carret , S. Lafont , W. Mayo and C. Fabrigoule 2003. The effect of education on cognitive performances and its implication for the constitution of the cognitive reserve. Developmental Neuropsychology, 23, 3, 317–37.

A. Mackinnon , H. Christensen , S. M. Hofer , A. E. Korten and A. F. Jorm 2003. Use it and still lose it? The association between activity and cognitive performance established using latent growth techniques in a community sample. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, 10, 3, 215–29.

H. Maier and P. L. Klumb 2005. Social participation and survival at older ages: is the effect driven by activity content or context? European Journal of Ageing, 2, 1, 31–9.

S. B. Maitland , R. C. Intrieri , W. K. Schaie and S. L. Willis 2000. Gender differences and changes in cognitive abilities across the adult life span. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, 7, 1, 3253.

G. J. McDougall , H. Becker and K. L. Areheart 2006. Older males, cognitive function and alcohol consumption. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27, 4, 337–53.

G. M. McEvoy and W. F. Cascio 1989. Cumulative evidence of the relationship between employee age and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 1, 11–7.

K. McGarry 2004. Health and retirement: do changes in health affect retirement expectations? Journal of Human Resources, 39, 3, 624–48.

W. Meeusen and J. van den Broeck 1977. Efficiency estimation from Cobb-Douglas production functions with composed error. International Economic Review, 18, 2, 435–44.

G. Mein , P. Martikainen , H. Hemingway , S. Stansfeld and M. Marmot 2003. Is retirement good or bad for mental and physical health functioning? Whitehall II longitudinal study of civil servants. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 1, 46–9.

M. Melchior , L. F. Berkman , I. Niedhammer , M. Chea and M. Goldberg 2003. Social relations and self-reported health: a prospective analysis of the French Gazel cohort. Social Science and Medicine, 56, 8, 1817–30.

J. S. Meyer , G. M. Rauch , K. Crawford , R. A. Rauch , S. Konno , H. Akiyama , Y. Terayama and A. Haque 1999. Risk factors accelerating cerebral degenerative changes, cognitive decline and dementia. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 14, 12, 1050–61.

R. S. Newson and E. B. Kemps 2005. General lifestyle activities as a predictor of current cognition and cognitive change. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60, 3, 113–21.

S. Norman , A. I. Tröster , J. A. Fields and R. Brooks 2002. Effects of depression and Parkinson's disease on cognitive functioning. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 14, 1, 31–6.

L. S. Rasmussen , K. Larsen , P. Houx , L. T. Skovgaard , C. D. Hanning , J. T. Moller and the ISPOCD group2001. The assessment of postoperative cognitive function. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, 45, 3, 275–89.

S. J. Rasquin , R. Lodder , I. Ponds , J. Winkens , J. Jolles and F. R. J. Verhey 2004. Cognitive functioning after stroke: a one-year follow-up study. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 18, 2, 138–44.

N. Raz 2004. The aging brain: structural changes and their implications for cognitive aging. In R. A. Dixon , L. Bäckman and L.-G. Nilsson (eds), New Frontiers in Cognitive Aging. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 115–33.

M. Richards , R. Hardy and M. E. Wadsworth 2003. Does active leisure protect cognition? Evidence from a national birth cohort. Social Science and Medicine, 56, 4, 785–92.

M. Richards , B. Shipley , R. Fuhrer and M. E. Wadsworth 2004. Cognitive ability in childhood and cognitive decline in mid-life: longitudinal birth cohort study. British Medical Journal, 328, 7439, 552–7.

R. K. Salokangas and M. Joukamaa 1991. Physical and mental health changes in retirement age. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 55, 2–4, 100–7.

N. Scarmeas , G. Levy , M. X. Tang , J. Manly and Y. Stern 2001. Influence of leisure activity on the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Neurology, 57, 12, 2236–42.

N. Scarmeas and Y. Stern 2003. Cognitive reserve and lifestyle. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 25, 5, 625–33.

K. W. Schaie 1994. The course of adult intellectual development. American Psychologist, 49, 4, 304–3.

K. W. Schaie and S. L. Willis 1986. Can decline in intellectual functioning be reversed? Developmental Psychology, 22, 2, 223–32.

F. L. Schmidt and J. E. Hunter 1998. The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 2, 262–74.

R. Schmidt , L. Mechtler , P. R. Kinkel , F. Fazekas , W. R. Kinkel and W. Freidl 1993. Cognitive impairment after acute supratentorial stroke: a 6-month follow-up clinical and computed tomographic study. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 243, 1, 1115.

C. Schooler , M. S. Mulatu and G. Oates 1999. The continuing effects of substantively complex work in the intellectual functioning of older workers. Psychology and Aging, 14, 3, 483506.

A. E. Schwartzman , D. Gold , D. Andres , T. Y. Arbuckle and J. Chaikelson 1987. Stability of intelligence: a 40 year follow-up. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 41, 2, 244–56.

D. A. Snowdon , S. J. Kemper , J. A. Mortimer , L. H. Greiner , D. R. Wekstein and W. R. Markesbery 1996. Linguistic ability in early life and cognitive function and Alzheimer's disease in later life. Journal of the American Medical Association, 275, 7, 528–32.

C. Tesch-Römer and H. J. von Kondratowitz 2006. Comparative ageing research: a flourishing field in need of theoretical cultivation. European Journal of Ageing, 3, 3, 155–67.

P. Verhaegen and T. A. Salthouse 1997. Meta-analyses of age-cognition relations in adulthood: estimates of linear and nonlinear age effects and structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 122, 3, 231–49.

L. J. Whalley , J. M. Starr , R. Athawes , D. Hunter , A. Pattie and I. J. Deary 2000. Childhood mental ability and dementia. Neurology, 55, 10, 1455–9.

R. S. Wilson , L. L. Barnes , C. F. Mendes de Leon , N. T. Aggarwal , J. S. Schneider , J. Bach , J. Pilat , L. A. Beckett , S. E. Arnold , D. A. Evans and D. A. Bennett 2002 a. Depressive symptoms, cognitive decline, and risk of AD in older persons. Neurology, 59, 3, 364370.

R. Wilson , K. R. Krueger , S. E. Arnold , J. A. Schneider , J. F. Kelly , L. L. Barnes , Y. Tang and D. A. Bennett 2007. Loneliness and risk of Alzheimer disease. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64, 2, 234–40.

R. S. Wilson , C. F. Mendes De Leon , L. L. Barnes , J. A. Schneider , J. L. Bienias , D. A. Evans and D. A. Bennett 2002 b. Participation in cognitively stimulating activities and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Journal of the American Medical Association, 287, 6, 742–8.

G. Winocur , J. Vardy , M. A. Binns , L. Kerr and I. Tannock 2006. The effects of the anti-cancer drugs, methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil, on cognitive function in mice. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 85, 1, 6675.

Z. Zhang 2006. Gender differentials in cognitive impairment and decline of the oldest old in China. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 61, 2, S107–15.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *