Social engagement and cognitive functioning among older persons

Henriette Engelhardt, Universitat Bamberg
Isabella Buber-Ennser, Vienna Institute of Demography
Vegard Skirbekk, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Alexia Fuernkranz-Prskawetz, Vienna Institute of Demography

In this study we analyse the relationship between cognitive performance, social participation and behavioural risks taking into account the influence of age and educational attainment. We use individual data from twelve mainly European countries collected in the first wave of SHARE. The methodology proposed, a stochastic frontier approach, allows us to identify the effects of the different sources of plasticity on cognitive functioning while explicitly taking into account the age-related decline in cognitive performance. In the pooled sample, the results clearly show that all kinds of social engagement enhance cognitive functions, in particular the continuation of occupational activities. Moreover, behavioural risks such as physical inactivity, obese, smoking or drinking clearly do not benefit cognitive performance. Country-specific results, however, vary with respect to signs for all indicators of social engagement and behavioural risks.

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Presented in Session 28: Mental Health