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Journal Article

Social isolation and memory decline in later-life


Publication date

Feb 2020


To investigate associations between level and changes in social isolation and in memory in older men and women.
The sample included 6,123 women and 5,110 men aged 50+ from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA). Extended latent change score models from six measurement occasions every 2 years from 2002 were used to investigate associations between social isolation and memory. Models were adjusted for age, socioeconomic position, and health.
Social isolation increased and memory decreased over time. Among men an initially high level of social isolation was associated with a somewhat greater decrease in memory. Among women a greater increase in social isolation predicted a greater decrease in memory and a larger change in social isolation was associated with further larger changes in isolation, although when social isolation reached a higher level it subsequently decreased.
Results suggest that the association between social isolation and memory decline arises because social isolation is associated with increased memory decline rather than poor memory leading to increases in social isolation. Men with high levels of social isolation and women with accumulated social isolation over time are especially affected as these patterns of isolation were associated with more profound memory decline.

Published in

Journals of Gerontology: Series B

Volume and page numbers

75 , 367 -376





Older People, Psychology, Social Exclusion, Well Being, and Health


Open Access; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited


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