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Table 1 Characteristics of studies: intervention studies

From: The impact of social activities, social networks, social support and social relationships on the cognitive functioning of healthy older adults: a systematic review

Intervention studies examining the impact of social relationships on cognitive function
Study Participants Intervention Socialisation defined Cognitive outcome measures Results summary
Mortimer (2012) [35]
N = 120
1. Tai Chi
2. Walking
3. Social activity
4. No intervention
3 times/week, 40 weeks RCT
Social activity: Meeting and conversational discussion facilitated by leader and assistant 3 times a week for 40 weeks. Memory (composite AVLT, CVLT)
Attention (Bell Cancellation Test, Stroop, TMT A)
Verbal Fluency (Category) a
Executive function (Rey CFT)
Processing speed (WAIS Digit Span, WAIS Similarities)
Cognitive function (Boston Naming Test, Clock-Drawing Test, MDRS)
Baseline to 40-week follow-up; improved verbal fluency (p = 0.01), trends for improvement (p < 0.10) on TMT A and AVLT.
Increased brain volume in the social interaction group versus no intervention, (p < 0.05). P-values not provided for other comparisons.
Park (2014)
N = 221
1. n = 29
2. n = 35
3. n = 42
4. n = 36
5. n = 39
6. n = 40
Age: 60–90
Cognitive Engagement
1. Photo group
2. Quilt group
3. Dual photo + quilt control group
4. Social activity
5. Placebo
6. No intervention
15.9 h/week, 14 week programme, Non-RCT
Social activity: Participants engaged in on-site, facilitator-led social interactions, field trips, and entertainment with a social group. Episodic memory (Cantab, HVLT)
Visuospatial processing (Cantab, Raven’s Progressive Matrices)
Processing speed (Digit Span)
Attention/inhibitory control (Flanker Task)
Cognitive function (MMSE)
Social group showed greater, but non-significant pre-post-test improvements versus photo, quilt and placebo (p = 0.10) on processing speed; photo and placebo on attention/inhibitory control; placebo on episodic memory; and quilt, dual and placebo on visuospatial processing.
Pitkala (2011)
N = 235
1. n = 117
2. n = 118
Age: 75+
1. Social activity plus therapeutic writing/group exercise/art experience
2. Normal community care
6 h/week, 3 months
12 month FU, RCT
Social activity: Choice of 1/3 activities plus active discussions, shared experiences, discussed feelings, peer support. Facilitated by trained professionals. Cognitive function (ADAS-Cog) b
Subjective Cognitive Function (15D) b
ADAS-Cog scores improved significantly more in the social group than in the control group (p = 0.023); as did changes in 15D (p = 0.047).
  1. RCT randomised controlled trial, FU follow-up, AVLT Auditory Verbal Learning Test, CVLT Category Verbal Fluency Test, TMT Trail Making Test, Rey CFT Rey Complex Figure Task, WAIS-R Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, MDRS Mattis Dementia Rating Scale, Cantab Cambridge Tests of Cognitive Function, HVLT Hopkins Verbal Learning Test, MMSE Mini Mental Status Examination, ADAS-Cog Alzheimer’s disease Assessment Scale-Cognition
  2. Italic text indicates factors that were significantly related
  3. aSignificant improvement reported from baseline to follow-up
  4. bSignificant improvement reported in intervention compared to control