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Operationalizing Social Environments in Cognitive Aging and Dementia Research: A Scoping Review

Social environments are a contributing determinant of health and disparities. This scoping review details how social environments have been operationalized in observational studies of cognitive aging and dementia. A systematic search in PubMed and Web of Science identified studies of social environment exposures and late-life cognition/dementia outcomes. Data were extracted on (1) study design; (2) population; (3) social environment(s); (4) cognitive outcome(s); (5) analytic approach; and (6) theorized causal pathways. Studies were organized using a 3-tiered social ecological model at interpersonal, community, or policy levels. Of 7802 non-duplicated articles, 123 studies met inclusion criteria. Eighty-four studies were longitudinal (range 1-28 years) and 16 examined time-varying social environments. When sorted into social ecological levels, 91 studies examined the interpersonal level; 37 examined the community/neighborhood level; 3 examined policy level social environments; and 7 studies examined more than one level. Most studies of social environments and cognitive aging and dementia examined interpersonal factors measured at a single point in time. Few assessed time-varying social environmental factors or considered multiple social ecological levels. Future studies can help clarify opportunities for intervention by delineating if, when, and how social environments shape late-life cognitive aging and dementia outcomes.

Authors: Peterson, Rachel L; George, Kristen M; Tran, Duyen; Malladi, Pallavi; Gilsanz, Paola; Kind, Amy J H; Whitmer, Rachel A; Besser, Lilah M; Meyer, Oanh L

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 07 04;18(13). Epub 2021-07-04.

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