Associations between social network characteristics, cognitive function, and quality of life among residents in a dementia special care unit: A pilot study.

KM Abbott, MC Pachucki


Social integration has a significant influence on physical and mental health. Older adults experience an increased risk of social isolation as their social networks contract. The purpose of this study is to examine associations between dementia special care unit residents' overall well-being and cognition with structural aspects of their coresident relationships. DESIGN AND METHODS. Measures of social network structure were calculated from self-reported social contact data within three cohorts of residents in one dementia special care unit. Pearson correlations were used to describe associations between overall quality of life and cognition, with network characteristics indicative of social integration. RESULTS. Approximately half the ties sent or received were reciprocated and positive associations were found between social integration and quality of life. However, inconsistent associations were found between social integration and cognitive function. Friendship ties were more frequent between people of adjacent cognitive status categories. In addition, comparing across personal networks, residents tended to be tied to residents of higher quality of life status (43.3%, n=13 personal networks) as opposed to lower (30% n=9 networks) or same (26.7% n=8 networks). There is a strong positive correlation between quality of life and respondent's betweenness centrality, suggesting that individuals with high quality of life tend to be important intermediaries between others in the community. IMPLICATIONS. Among the oldest old, quality of life and cognitive function are unevenly distributed, yet these health indicators tend to cluster in social networks. This reinforces that while quality of life may be highly individual, it is in part linked to relationships with others.

Dementia: The international journal of social research and practice.
January, 2016