Background and Objectives: One of the greatest challenges of old age is the risk of cognitive decline. Engagement in social activities has been identified as a possible protective factor. However, it is not yet clear what are the mechanisms underlying this association. This study aims to elucidate the pathways through which social activities impact cognitive functioning, focusing on physical activity and mental health as possible mediators. Research Design and Methods: The study utilized 3 waves of data - the fourth, fifth, and sixth waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, collected in 2011, 2013, and 2015, respectively. It focused on respondents aged 60 and older. Cognitive functioning was assessed via immediate recall, delayed recall, and fluency. Social activities were measured by volunteering and attending social clubs. Data were analyzed using a structural equation modeling approach. Results: The results indicated a significant direct effect of social activities on cognitive functioning. That is, being socially active at baseline was related to better cognitive function 4 years later. The results also indicated the existence of indirect effects. Engaging in social activities was related to better mental health and more physical activities 2 years later, which were related to better subsequent cognitive performance. Discussion and Implications: These findings highlight the mediating roles of physical activity and mental health in the effects of social activities on cognitive functioning. Understanding these mechanisms can help optimize social activity interventions to improve cognitive aging.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- !!Health(social science)
- !!Health Professions (miscellaneous)
- !!Life-span and Life-course Studies