Sep 26, 2012

Social Participation and Cognition Later in Life

In this paper we investigated the impact of social activities on cognition later in life (as measured by test scores for numeracy, fluency, and immediate and delayed recall), by using representative and harmonized survey data for individuals aged fifty and above from eleven European countries. 
We found that social activities have an important effect on cognition, with results differing by sex. Social activities increase cognitive performance in females by affecting their fluency, and immediate and delayed recall. On the other hand, the improvement in males comes with respect to numeracy and delayed recall. Importantly, we found these effects after addressing the issue of the endogeneity of social activities through the use of panel data and IV methods. As a result, we conclude that social activities have a positive causal impact on cognition in older age. 
Given that several studies have demonstrated that higher cognition in older age is associated with significantly better economic outcomes, our findings suggest that having a socially active life in older age can have an important economic impact. Therefore, pursuing policies that target the social involvement of older people can be justified not only on medical but also on economic grounds.
[What kind of social activities?] The authors explain:
. . . [V]olunteering, participation in a political organization or a social club, and attendance of an educational course. 
Source: "The Impact of Social Activities on Cognitive Ageing: Evidence from Eleven European Countries," (Christelis and Dobrescu, September 2012).
[I hope e-social-networks count as social activities].

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