Psychosocial Correlates of Cognitive Function in the Elderly: A Biobehavioral Approach
Lisa Boss, Duck-Hee Kang, Nancy Bergstrom, J. Leigh Leasure

Objectives: Psychological stress, depression, and loneliness are associated with adverse cognitive health outcomes in a rapidly growing aging population. Prolonged activation of the HPA axis with elevated salivary cortisol is associated with poor cognitive function. This purpose of this pilot study was to examine correlates between psychological stress, depression, loneliness, and cognitive function from a biobehavioral perspective and enhance understanding of how salivary biomarkers are related to cognitive function in an elderly population. Method: Data were cross-sectionally collected from 71 community-dwelling elderly (mean age 86.4). Stress, depression, loneliness, and cognitive function were measured with standardized instruments, and saliva samples were collected for salivary cortisol and DHEA. Results: Stress and loneliness were significantly and negatively correlated with global cognitive function (r = -.25, r = -.30, both p = < .05) and executive function (r = -.26, r = -.40, both p< .05). Cortisol showed a significant negative correlation with executive function (r = -.30, p<.05), despite non-significant correlations with psychosocial variables. Conclusion: Loneliness, stress, and cortisol seem to be important biobehavioral variables on cognitive function in the elderly. Additional biobehavioral research is needed with more diverse study participants, longitudinal research designs, and other relevant biomarkers for cognitive functions. With increasing longevity, biobehavioral interactions and cognitive function will remain a significant area of research in the elderly and better understanding of such interactions may reduce adverse burdens in the aging population.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijn.v2n1a5