Jang H, Hill NL, Turner J, Bratlee-Whitaker E, Jeong M, Mogle J. Poor-quality daily social encounters, daily stress, and subjective cognitive decline among older adults. Innov Aging. 2024 May 8. doi: 10.1093/geroni/igae038

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Although prior research has shown that social relationships and daily stress are strongly associated with cognitive function, few studies have explored the link between the quality of daily social encounters and subjective cognitive decline (SCD). The present study explores whether the quality of older adults’ daily social encounters is associated with SCD through daily stress.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: This study used data from 254 adults aged 70 or older (Mage= 76.5 years, SD= 4.4; 67.7% female) who completed the Einstein Aging Study, a two-week experience sampling study. Multilevel mediation analyses were conducted to account for daily measurements nested within individuals. We tested the indirect effect of the quality of daily social encounters on SCD through daily stress levels.

RESULTS: There was a significant positive association between ambivalent and neutral social encounters and daily stress levels at both the within- and between-person levels. Between-person daily stress was, in turn, associated with greater SCD. Specifically, there was a significant indirect path from ambivalent social encounters to SCD through daily stress.

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: This study contributes to a more detailed understanding of how the quality of daily social encounters can influence cognition via increased exposure to daily stress. The findings suggest that emotional support may be crucial to preserving perceptions of older adults’ cognitive functioning.

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