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Gerontologist. 2017 Nov 10;57(6):1031-1040. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw154.

Social Connectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Dementia: Does the Social Environment Moderate the Relationship Between Genetic Risk and Cognitive Well-Being?

Author information

Center on Aging, College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University, Manhattan.
Department of Gerontology, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Purpose of the Study:

This study examined whether the social environment moderates the relationship between the APOE e4 allele and cognitive functioning.

Design and Methods:

The Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study (ADAMS) data and multinomial logistic regression models were used to investigate these relationships for a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged 70 and older (n = 779).


Living alone (relative risk ratio [RRR] = 5.814; p = .000) and self-reported loneliness (RRR = 1.928, p = .049) were associated with a greater risk of cognitive difficulty. Living arrangements, perceived social support, and loneliness were found to moderate the relationship between the APOE e4 allele and cognitive function.


The results support the need to consider the social context when examining cognitive well-being in later life. These findings also indicate a need for the development of policies and services that promote a rich social environment.


APOE; Alzheimer’s disease; Cognition; Genes; Social context

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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