Longitudinal associations between loneliness and cognitive ability in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936: 1376-1386

Judith A Okely, Ian J Deary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Objectives: Loneliness is associated with poorer cognitive function in old age; however, the direction of this association is unknown. We tested for reciprocal associations between loneliness and the cognitive ability domains of processing speed, visuospatial ability, verbal memory, and crystalized ability.

Method: We used three triennial waves of longitudinal data from the Lothian Birth Cohort Study 1936, and tested for cross-lagged associations between loneliness and cognitive abilities using cross-lagged panel models.

Results: Better processing speed, visuospatial ability or crystallised ability at age 73, was associated with less positive changes in loneliness between ages 73 and 76; however, these associations were not replicated between ages 76 and 79. Loneliness at ages 73 and 76 did not predict subsequent changes in cognitive abilities.

Discussion: Our findings indicate an association between cognitive ability and loneliness, such that individuals with lower cognitive abilities at age 73 may be at a slightly higher risk of becoming lonely. However, we did not find support for the hypothesis that loneliness causes a decline in cognitive health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbergby086
Pages (from-to)1376-1386
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number8
Early online date21 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • social interaction
  • cognition
  • successful ageing


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